Victims have been stripped of £749,191 in total over the last six months after criminals started relationships with the vulnerable victims and manipulated them into transferring lump sums – often claiming to need money for struggling businesses, hospital treatments or to help with serious debt.
In one case, bank staff were able to prevent a 70-year-old woman from sending her so-called partner £74,000 thanks to an ongoing partnership initiative called the Banking Protocol.
Detective Sergeant Paddy O’Keefe from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) said: “Romance fraud is nothing to sneer at – it’s a devastating crime which impacts victims financially and emotionally and preys on the vulnerable in unimaginable ways.
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“These fraudsters undertake hours of research and when they finally get a response from an interested party - they apply unbelievable pressure, often using emotional blackmail and coercive control to get what they want.
“What’s heart-breaking for victims is learning the person they thought they were falling for not only doesn’t exist, but has left them with significant financial losses.
“We’re reminding everyone to stop, think and talk to their friends if in doubt. Fraudsters thrive when their victims are embarrassed and isolated so don’t let them get away with it.”
Police say the top five platforms where victims reported first interacting with the criminal committing ‘romance fraud’ were Facebook, Plenty of Fish, Instagram, Tinder and Match.com.
You can find more information on spotting a Romance Fraud and protecting yourself here.