Police are encouraging the public to take extra steps to protect themselves online following reports of internet dating fraud as part of a forcewide initiative.
According to recent statistics from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and Get Safe Online, over 2,800 people reported online dating related crimes in 2013 alone, with one victim losing £850,000 to romance fraud.
Dating or romance fraud involves a fraudster developing a relationship with a victim through online dating sites and chat rooms. A long-distance relationship is then developed through emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls.
Once the offender has gained the trust of the victim they will begin to request money for a number of emotive reasons, such as a family members being in need of medical assistance or they need money to cover travel costs to visit the victim.
Once the money has been sent over, the fraudsters will keep coming back with more reasons to send them money.
Detective Constable Julie Wheeldon from the East Midlands Fraud and Financial Investigation Unit said: “Dating and romance scammers lower your defences by building an online relationship with you and many people, both men and women, have lost huge amounts of money to online dating scammers.
“Throughout the UK alone, this type of fraud is costing victims around £24.5million per year but thankfully, there are simple steps that you can take to increase your security when using sites online.
“Firstly, always consider your personal safety if you arrange to meet someone through a dating website and always let your friends and family know where you will be.
“Make sure that you are using a legitimate website, be wary about revealing your personal information and never send any money to a person you have never met or to anyone you don’t know or trust.”
Follow these top tips to protect yourself from online dating fraud:
· Always trust your instincts. If you think something feels wrong, it probably is;
· Guard your privacy and be wary about revealing too much about yourself;
· Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust;
· Communicate with people locally and not from overseas, although you should be aware that someone might tell you they are in the same country as you when they are not;
· Never reply to communications from someone who you meet on a dating site or chat room and then wants continue the communication by email.
If you think that you have been a victim of fraud, you should break all contact immediately and do not send any more money. Ensure that you report the fraudster to the website of chat room operator.
Detectives have teamed up with Derbyshire County Council and Derby City Council in a bid to increase public knowledge of fraud and scams as part of a forcewide drive to Stamp out Fraud in Derbyshire.
Visit the dedicated page on the force website which includes the latest news releases about frauds that have happened in the county and useful advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of the crime. Visit www.derbyshire.police.uk/stampoutfraud
If you think that you have been a victim of fraud, contact the non-emergency number for Derbyshire police on 101. To report a scam call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.