According to City of London Police, UK daters lost almost £40 million to romance fraud during 2015 and 2016, with Action Fraud receiving a new report every 3 hours.

Online dating websites and apps are the perfect way for fraudsters to meet someone without actually revealing their true identity. The fraudster will create a fake profile and build up a relationship with their victim over several weeks or months.

Once a level of trust has been established, they will invent a problem that requires financial assistance. Unfortunately they may pull on the heart strings, stating that a family member is ill and needs money for medical treatment, or that would like to visit but need money for a train, flight or visa.

The average amount lost by a victim of romance scams is £10,000, which may be taken over several weeks. Sadly, once a fraudster has convinced their victim to send money, they will keep inventing new problems in order to get more from them.

The recent launch of the new Online Dating Association is a big step forward in addressing the issue. It brings together key partners such as Get Safe Online, Victim Support and Age UK, all working with the sole aim of reducing the number of people falling victim to dating fraud.

Councillor Shabir Pandor of the West Yorkshire Trading Standards Committee, said: “We have come across victims locally who have lost thousands of pounds to romance fraudsters. Sadly, one victim even went to the airport to meet their romancer after giving money for a plane ticket, only to realise that it was a scam.”

David Lodge, Head of West Yorkshire Trading Standards, said: “This type of fraud can have a significant impact on the victim’s health and wellbeing. We are constantly striving to prevent residents of West Yorkshire falling victim to this and other types of scams. Our SAFER Project, funded by BIG Lottery, raises awareness of a wide range of fraud through free workshops to community groups.”

ONLINE DATING ASSOCIATIONS’ #DATESAFE TIPS:

1. Get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions – don’t rush into an online relationship.

2. Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.

3. Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.

4. Never send money to someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them.

5. Don’t move the conversation off the dating site messenger until you’re confident the person is who they say they are.

WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE BEEN SCAMMED:

Remember that you are not alone. Anyone can be a victim. Contact Victim Support (West Yorkshire) for support on 0300 303 1971.

Get advice if you are not sure you have been scammed via Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0345 404 0506 or online at www.citizensadvice.org.uk.

Report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.

Contact your bank as soon as possible if you have given your bank or card details. Unfortunately it’s not always possible to get your money back if you’ve been scammed, but your bank may be able recover some funds if they’ve been sent electronically i.e. with a credit card, debit card or online.

For more information on the SAFER Project:

Call 0113 393 9910 Email – safer@wyjs.org.uk

www.facebook.com/SAFERProject

www.twitter.com/wytradstandards

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