Kent victims searching for love lost more than £2 million pounds last year after being manipulated by con artists.
A total of 183 romance-related scams were recorded in the county by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) between January and December 2022. Most of the victims were aged between 40 and 60 years old.
Kent Police continues to proactively tackle this type of offending and regularly reminds online daters and their families to look out for the signs of romance fraud.
Criminals will spend weeks gaining their victims’ trust before asking for money for a variety of emotive reasons. The actual number of romance scams are thought to be considerably higher than the number of recorded crimes as victims often feel too hurt and embarrassed to come forward.
Fraudsters use a range of stories to get victims to transfer them money without it raising suspicion. The stories are often believable, to a certain extent, and something that the victim would find hard to say no to, especially because of their emotional attachment.
Examples of stories include funding travel to visit the victim, money to pay for emergency medical expenses, lucrative investment opportunities and pretending to be military personnel or working overseas.
Detective Superintendent Gavin Moss from Kent Police’s Economic Crime Unit said: ‘This type of offence can really hurt victims, not just financially but emotionally too and we will continue to do everything we possibly can to warn people and protect them from harm.
‘Romance fraud is not unique to Kent but over the last four years criminals have pocketed more than £10 million pounds after tugging on the heartstrings of innocent people here in our county. This is not acceptable. Victims have lost their life savings and been left heartbroken, often too embarrassed to tell their families.
‘It may be comforting to know that we have a specialist team of officers and staff who understand these crimes are emotionally complex and will support victims, protect them from further harm and of course do everything possible to prevent innocent people from being exploited in the first place.
‘Criminals committing fraud will try every trick in the book to get people to part with their money, innocent people who think they are in a loving relationship and we want to find the criminals responsible for that.
‘We urge people to protect themselves online and to look out for their friends and family, especially those most vulnerable in our society. We have lots of advice on our website and our officers hold events around the county, sometimes in conjunction with banks, where they talk about the signs of fraud and give advice.
‘Anyone who thinks they are being targeted or has been a victim of dating fraud should report it immediately. This information will continue to help us to identify and track down these heartless offenders and bring them to justice.’
To report fraud contact Action Fraud via their website, or by calling 0300 123 2040.
You can also contact Kent Police by visiting www.kent.police.uk.
In the event of an emergency, or if a crime is in progress, always call 999.
Incidents can also be reported to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or by completing their online form.
Spot the signs
They want to communicate with you through instant messaging and texts, rather than through the dating website or chat room where you met.
They ask you lots of questions about yourself, but don’t tell you much about themselves.
They don’t answer basic questions about where they live and work.
Don’t be convinced by proﬁle pictures as they may have been taken from somewhere else on the internet.
Fraudsters will use different scenarios, such as:
Claiming to be military personnel based overseas who require funds for flights home or early discharge from the forces.
Requiring money to pay for medical-related issues such as emergency surgery for themselves or a family member.
They have arranged to visit you but need money to pay travel costs.