By Kiah Searson
South Yorkshire Police has issued a warning about romance fraud to help members of the public enjoy Valentine’s Day in safety.
South Yorkshire Police has been raising awareness of online scams through information stalls throughout the City of Sheffield. This is to prevent future victims of email and social media hacking as over 14,000 people in South Yorkshire were reported victims last year.
This Valentine’s Day people need to be aware of the dangers of romance fraud as “Criminals are experts at impersonating people”, the best way to avoid becoming a victim of romance fraud is to stay away from fake profiles, said Detective Inspector James Smith.
Romance fraud occurs when people make fake profiles to gain another person’s trust and take advantage of them.
DI James Smith from the force’s Fraud Coordination Team said: “Criminals take advantage of their victim by asking them for money, in a way that avoids raising suspicion.”
Crimestoppers reported that romance fraud was responsible for a loss of over £99 million in 2021, with the average victim losing £10,000 over the course of the scam.
Additional data shared by Crimestoppers shows that men and women are almost equally targeted by fraudsters. This is with 55.1% of reports made by women, 44.7% made by men and 0.2% from transgender members of the community. Further information also shows that people of all cultures and ethnicities are also targeted.
The South Yorkshire Police supports Crimestoppers campaign to tackle romance fraud as they encourage anonymous reporting.
DI Smith added: “Don’t be afraid to challenge or check details given by the other person to ensure they are genuine. If their photo looks too perfect, and you think it might not be genuine, then a reverse image search can identify photos if the photo has been taken from somewhere else.
“If you’ve spotted any of the warning signs that someone might be at risk of romance fraud or know details about the criminals behind it but don’t feel comfortable reporting it directly to the police, you can speak up via Crimestoppers, who keep your report anonymous, so no-one will ever know you talked to them.”
If you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud online or by calling 0300 123 2040.