Lockdown Loneliness: Reports of romance scams have skyrocketed over the past few months with over 600 complaints being made to Action Fraud UK during June, July and August alone.
Romance Fraud on the increase
Criminals have been ‘exploiting victims’ who have a desire for human contact during the lockdown. Police forces and other organisations are now running a campaign throughout October to raise awareness of romance fraud, following a 26% increase in reports to Action Fraud in the past year.
With the average victim losing at least €11,200 (£10,000) it is now a very serious matter. Romance fraud, or dating fraud, occurs when people think they have met the perfect partner online but their “date” turns out to be using a fake profile in order to form a relationship.
They gain the victim’s trust over weeks or months, however, the criminal’s end goal is always to get the victim’s money or personal information. With banking and credit card details the scammers can easily empty all the accounts of their prey- by the time anyone has noticed all the money has disappeared into ‘cyberspace.’
Diana Fawcett, chief executive of charity Victim Support, said: “Lockdown restrictions meant people could not meet in person for a number of months, which led to many seeking to form new connections online. “Whilst using the internet can be a great way to meet people and form relationships, there’s also a great risk of being lured into a romance scam as fraudsters know how to take advantage of people’s desire for human contact.”
She added, quote: “Unfortunately, we’ve seen that circumstances caused by coronavirus were in fact used by fraudsters as a ‘hook’ to extort money. For example, some have invented lies about needing medical treatment, or urgent travel expenses to leave a country, or funds to keep afloat after a bogus job loss caused by the pandemic.”
Losses reported by victims between August 2019 and August 2020 totalled a staggering €74m (£66m).
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