Peterborough residents looking for love online this Valentine’s Day are being warned to be wary of fraudsters.
Online dating fraud in the UK cost victims a heart-breaking £27 million last year.
More than 2,700 online dating related crimes were reported to police across the UK over 12 months with the average loss standing at £10,000, according to Get Safe Online and the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB).
However, the actual number of crimes is thought to be considerably higher, with victims not reporting them owing to embarrassment.
Almost two thirds (62 per cent) of all victims are aged between 40-69 accounting for £16 million of the total losses. People aged between 50-59 are the most likely victims accounting for a quarter of all frauds and losing just over £6 million. Although those aged between 40-49 accounted for less of the reported fraud, (22 per cent) overall losses were greater at £8 million.
Detective Sergeant Rich Oliver from Cambridgeshire Constabulary’s Fraud and Cyber Investigation Unit said: “Online dating is a popular method of meeting that special someone however this has provided fraudsters with another method of defrauding unsuspecting victims.
“Fraudsters will invest a great deal of time and money to foster an emotional relationship and where victims think you are talking to one individual it may in fact be several users working together using the same identity and sharing information that victims have provided them.
“The effect of this type of crime has enormous impact on victims as they have invested their emotions and believe they are starting a new chapter in their lives. Victims have invested large amounts of money, some re-mortgaging homes to obtain money for fraudsters. These crimes leave the victims emotionally distressed and financially destitute.
“There are precautions you should take when dating online and a few tell-tale signs that might indicate your online date may be a fraudster.”
CEO of Get Safe Online, Tony Neate added: “There are a minority of people who use online dating as a forum to target vulnerable people, knowing if they invest a lot of time into building a relationship with someone, they could potentially steal a lot of money. This is demonstrated by the huge amount lost to online dating related crimes last year, with the average loss standing at a worrying £10,000.”
Police have issued a number of tips to help keep people safe online.
Trust your instincts - if you think something feels wrong, it probably is
Choose a site that will protect your anonymity until you choose to reveal personal information and that will enforce its policies against inappropriate use
Do not post personal information, such as phone numbers, on dating sites
Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust
Wait until you feel comfortable with an individual before telling them things like your phone number, place of work or address
Be extremely wary about removing clothes or doing other things in front of your webcam that could be used against you - even if you think you know the other party
Use a dating site that offers the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties’ true email addresses
Set up a separate email account that does not use your real name
Pick a user name that does not include any personal information. For example, “joe_glasgow” or “jane_liverpool” would be bad choices
Finally, meet for the first few times in a safe place with plenty of people around, and tell a family member or friend where you are