Action Fraud service warns anyone looking for love this Valentine’s Day to beware of fraudsters
Incidents of dating fraud in the UK are reported seven times a day to Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting service, equating to around one incident every three hours.
The figures were released as part of an initiative to warn people of the dangers of online con artists preying on those looking for romance.
The average victim of dating fraud will make their first transfer of money to the fraudster in less than one month of contact, showing how quickly and easily victims are deceived.
Victims lose an average of £10,000 (€11,764) according to the findings.
Victim Support, Age UK, the City of London Police, London Metropolitan Police and Get Safe Online said they would work in partnership with the Online Dating Association in efforts "to better understand how fraudsters operate and reduce the number of people who fall victim" to dating fraud.
Nearly £40 million was lost through dating fraud between 2015 and 2016, with 3,889 reports made in total. However, evidence suggests that this doesn’t accurately represent the true scale of dating fraud due to the embarrassment felt by some victims of fraud which can discourage them from coming forward to report their experience.
The safe online dating partnership has come up with five simple tips to help people date safely on websites and apps that will be shared online with the hashtag #datesafe.
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online commented: "While we regularly hear good news stories about couples meeting online or via dating apps, these findings show there is an increasing problem with the number of cyber criminals out there who are looking to target vulnerable people for significant financial gain
"£10k is a staggering amount for the average online dater to lose to a fraudster who they’ve been led to believe is the real deal. It’s not just the financial loss, however, dating fraud can have a huge emotional impact on a victim too. We’ve spoken to people who’ve lost everything – their savings, their homes – and in many cases, it’s the whole family who suffers because of it."
With a quarter of dating fraud victims in their 50s, Caroline Abrahams, the charity director of Age UK said that "it’s really important for older people to be aware of this kind of crime.
"Feelings of loneliness and a desire for companionship can increase an older person’s vulnerability to fraudsters which can end in financial loss, ill health and heartache."
Commander Chris Greany, City of London Police and National Co-ordinator for Economic Crime said that the growth of online dating has led to a rise in organised criminals targeting people looking for love.
His advice to anyone involved in online dating is to "never give money to people you meet online, no matter what emotional sob story the person uses.”