"Each month we see many incidents of fraudsters targeting our residents to defraud them. We’re working hard to prevent this and support vulnerable victims of fraud or scams. By following our tips and encouraging family, friends and colleagues to do so too, you can reduce the risk of becoming a victim." T/Detective Chief Inspector Simon Doyle, Surrey Police & Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit
Sussex and Surrey police received 498 reports of romance fraud in 2022.
Unfortunately, 311 victims suffered a loss to Romance fraud. The total loss recorded to these victims was £7.46 Million with the average loss being £14.98K (*where a loss was recorded).
48% of victims were Female, 52% of victims were Male.
In one case, a 61-year-old male from Elmbridge matched with a female on a dating site and began getting to know her. After two weeks of speaking online they arranged to meet in person.
Before meeting, the victim was asked to buy Google vouchers and send pictures of the code on the back of each voucher. The victim bought £135 worth of vouchers and did as instructed.
On the day they had agreed to meet the victim travelled to the agreed meeting point and waited several hours for the female to turn up. The female had claimed it was her birthday, so the victim had brought her flowers and a gift in the hope to surprise her when she arrived. The female continued to make excuses as to why she was running late which led the victim to eventually go back home.
She then later contacted the victim again suggesting they rearrange to meet in person but that she would need some petrol money to get there. The victim growing suspicious refused to provide any further money. The female then continued to ask for further vouchers claiming she needed to pay her uncle for permission to meet the victim in person.
The victim soon realised the had been scammed and stopped all contact with the female.
D Don’t rush into an online relationship – get to know the person, not the profile, ensuring you ask plenty of questions. The vast majority of romance fraud is initiated online.
A Analyse their profile – protect yourself by confirming their identity. Check the person is genuine by putting the following into your search engine; their name, profile pictures and any repeatedly used phrases, along with the term ‘dating scam’. Be mindful that a fraudster could be hiding behind an alias and have changed details connecting them to previous fraudulent activity.
T Talk to your friends and family – be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them. Romance fraud involves grooming over a long period of time.
E Evade scams – never send money or share your bank details with someone you’ve only met online. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been speaking to them or what story they give behind needing the sum.
S Stay on the dating site messenger service – fraudsters will often encourage their victims to use different communication channels that are often undetectable.
You can report suspicions of Romance fraud anonymously to Scamalytics.
Using an online form (linked below) you can enter images, names and details of potential Romance fraudsters. This not only keeps yourself and your loved ones safe from Romance fraud but could prevent others from falling victim too.
Sussex and Surrey Police have seen a number of reports of Online Shopping fraud affecting those selling items on social media platforms. The interested buyer will attend to collect the item in person and claim to have bank transferred the payment to the seller by showing them a fake banking app confirmation on their phone.
However, when the seller checks their account, they find that the money has not been received. In some cases, the buyer may make excuses such as their bank taking a couple of hours to process the payment.
In one case, a 44-year-old Female from West Sussex advertised an iPhone for sale on Facebook Marketplace. An interested buyer contacted the victim and arranged to attend her home address to collect the iPhone and make payment.
The buyer arrived at the victim’s home address and agreed to pay the price of £825. The buyer then claimed to bank transfer the agreed amount to the victim’s bank. The victim asked for proof that the payment had been made and the buyer then showed her his phone screen which appeared to show a confirmation of a transfer of £825.
Believing this to be genuine the victim gave the buyer the iPhone and he left.
The victim later checked her bank account to find that no money had been received. The victim then tried to re contact the buyer who has not responded.
Get Safe Online provide advice on how to sell safely:
Always check buyers’ reviews and seller feedback. Accounts that have been set up very recently with a large volume of similar positive feedback could indicate fake reviews.
Always use the marketplace’s recommended method of payment (such as PayPal) and read the terms and conditions to check what you are protected against. Paying in any other way than via a recommended payment site – such as an app on the buyer’s phone or via bank transfer – could result in losses which you or your bank cannot recover. If you do pay via bank transfer, always check with your own bank if any payment is shown as pending.
Don’t allow the buyer to change the original agreed meeting place.
Don’t be rushed into handing over goods before you are sure that payment has been received.
Consider making cash payments at yours or the buyer’s bank premises for added protection.
Sextortion is a form of blackmail where a perpetrator threatens to reveal intimate images of the victim online unless they give in to their demands. These demands are typically for money or further images.
West Sussex County Council are running Sextortion Webinars. If you wish to learn more about Sextortion and how to safeguard yourself and others from the crime, please see the booking details below.