Bedfordshire Police is warning people about the dangers of romance fraud, following several recent cases in Biggleswade.
Fraudsters have targeted six men and women in the last six months in the Biggleswade area, by pretending they are in the armed forces and are unable to travel to the UK without financial help.
A common scenario is for the fraudster to purport to be an army officer or special forces commando working in Iraq or Afghanistan and needing support for fights and accommodation to visit the UK. Money is sent via transfers and forwarded on; the visits never take place and the money disappears. In this recent series of incidents in Biggleswade the sums lost have ranged between £40,000 and £70,000.
Action Fraud reported that victims in the UK were conned out of £41million in 2017, in a total of 3,557 romance cases.
The financial loss is only one result of this crime; almost half (43%) of victims said that the crime had a ‘significant’ impact on their health or financial wellbeing, with many finding it hard to come to terms with losing what they felt was a trusting and real relationship, according to a report published in February from a group involving Get Safe Online, London Metropolitan Police and City of London Police.
Cyber Security Advisor Sean O’Neil said: “Many victims are embarrassed by what has happened to them and don’t want to report it to the police. But this is often a very elaborate and complex crime with fraudsters taking the time to build a relationship by eliciting sympathy or saying things to tug on the heartstrings. They may also express their love or talk of marriage or a long-term future within a first few weeks of contact.”
Fraudsters may also introduce their need for money by talking about a family member who is ill and needs medical treatment, or telling the victim that they have a great business opportunity.
Sean adds that victims can always come to the police. “All of our conversations can be kept confidential; we don’t need to tell other family members. Follow our advice if you think you may be involved with someone who is just trying to extract money from you and remember you can discuss any concerns you have with us anytime.”
Action Fraud have published the following Date Safe tips:
Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions.
Analyse their profile and check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
Evade scammers by never sending money to, or sharing your bank details with, someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.
Stay on the dating site messenger service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are. If you do decide to meet in person, make sure the first meeting is in a public place and let someone else know where you’re going to be.