People looking for love are being urged to know how to spot the signs of romance fraud.

Police forces across the country are working together with partners, including Match Group, to tackle romance fraud throughout October.

And the national campaign, which is being co-ordinated by the City of London Police and aims to raise awareness of romance fraud and provide clear advice to help people stay safe when looking for love online, is being supported by the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Between August 2019 and August 2020, Action Fraud received over 400 reports a month from victims of romance fraud in the UK with over £66million lost by victims (an average loss per victim of over £10,000).

Across the Yorkshire and the Humber area (West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, Humberside and North Yorkshire) there were a combined 462 reports (August 2019 – August 2020) with a total financial loss of over £3million.

But it isn’t just the financial impact on victims.

Ramona Senior is in charge of the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit’s Economic Crime Unit

“Victims can suffer not only a monetary loss but a terrible emotional strain too.

“Criminals spend a long time weaving their way into a victim’s on-line life – and will make a victim feel wanted and loved. But it is all a scam to steal money.

“Understandably victims feel they are in a real and loving relationship but when they find out they have been the victim of a heartless scam it can be devastating.

“Our statistics show it can happen to anyone – with victims of all ages, sexes and professions targeted by the sophisticated criminals.

“That is why we at the Yorkshire and the Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit are showing our support for this campaign

“By following advice people can greatly reduce their chances of being a victim.”

Potential signs to spot

  • Someone you have struck an online relationship with declares their love quite quickly and talk about milestones such as marriage.
  • Many fraudsters say they are based abroad, often working in the military or medical profession or are carrying out important charity work so they can appear heroic and trustworthy.
  • Criminals will constantly make up excuses why they can’t video chat or meet in person
  • They will also try to get you to move your conversation off the online platform you are on.
  • To steal your money they will ask for financial help and say it is for a time critical emergency and something that is emotive that pulls at your heartstrings.
  • They will also tell you to keep your relationship private and insist you don’t discuss anything you talk about with your friends and family – they will convince you this is part of the normal privacy that forms a healthy relationship.

How to protect yourself

  • Avoid giving away too many personal details (e.g. full name, date of birth and home address) to someone you haven’t met – even if what you are doing is for a reason that seems to be harmless (for example your partner wants to send you flowers or a gift).
  • Stay on the online site’s messaging service until you meet in person. Whatever reason you are given to move away from the site where you met – if the other person is genuine they will accept your decision to stay on it until you meet in person
  • Most online platforms have an online reporting tool which can be used if you suspect someone online is using pictures that don’t belong to them, you are suspicious of their behaviour or they have asked you for money. Reporting their user profile means it can be blocked which helps protect others.
  • If you haven’t met someone in person (no matter how long you have been speaking to them), do not:
    • Send them money
    • Allow them access to your bank account
    • Transfer money on their behalf
    • Take a loan out for then
    • Provide copies of your personal documents (e.g. passport / driving licence)
    • Invest money on their behalf or on their advice
    • Purchase and send the codes on gift cards from Amazon or iTunes
    • Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf