Victims of romance fraud in Surrey have lost almost £2 million to “callous” criminals in just a year, says Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Townsend.
Between September 2022 and September of this year, 170 reports of romance fraud were made to Surrey Police, and 191 reports from Surrey residents were made to Action Fraud.
Most of the victims recorded by the force – 23 per cent – were initially approached via dating apps, although 14 per cent of those targeted began speaking with fraudsters on Facebook, and 13 per cent were first contacted on WhatsApp.
More than half of victims – 53 per cent – were male.
While most money was lost via bank transfer – 42 per cent – fraudsters also encouraged their victims to part ways with their cash by purchasing gift cards, Amazon vouchers and Bitcoin.
The total amount lost over the year is estimated to be £1.95m.
This is significantly down on the previous year, when 184 people made a report and an estimated £3.76m was lost. But the commissioner says even one report is too many.
“Romance fraud is a heart-breaking crime that can often cause huge damage to its victims,” said Ms Townsend.
“The scammers behind this type of offending deceive their victims into investing money and – perhaps even more harmfully – their time and emotional energy under the mistaken belief that they have a genuine connection.
“This offending relies on building a deeply personal relationship with the victim in order to extort them of their money. The victim can find it difficult to end contact as their emotional ties are so strong.
“Often, those affected can be left feeling ashamed and embarrassed.
“I want to let anyone who is suffering now know that they are not alone. This is not their fault.
“The criminals behind this appalling fraud are clever and manipulative. Please speak to Action Fraud and Surrey Police if you think you may be the victim of a scam. Our officers will never judge you, and they take reports of romance fraud incredibly seriously.”
Surrey Police has offered the following advice on spotting the signs of a romance fraudster:
They may also ask you to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it elsewhere or via MoneyGram, Western Union, iTunes vouchers or other gift cards. These scenarios are very likely to be forms of money laundering, meaning you would be committing a crime