Don’t fall for a Tinder swindler this Valentine’s Day!
Romance scams are on the rise, with Suffolk Trading Standards warning that dating could lead to more than just a broken heart.
As February 14 approaches, scores of singletons will be looking for love. But this could come with a heavy price tag.
Between November 2020 and October 2021, 8,863 cases of romance fraud were reported to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau, an increase of 27% from the previous year.
Many of these crimes relate to online dating which is now one of the most common ways to meet a romantic partner. Although most users genuinely do want to start a relationship, there are criminals out there looking to take advantage of people’s vulnerability.
One Halesworth resident knows this only too well, having joined Match.com and been conned out of over £40,000.
Her potential love interest posed as a Dutch GP working on an oil rig. After building up a rapport over WhatsApp, he then alleged that his bank accounts had been hacked and frozen before asking for a significant loan to pay for his ill father’s medical bills.
The woman never received her money back but was able to seek compensation from her bank thanks to the support of Suffolk Trading Standards.
It’s not just females falling foul to this crime, with a man from Sudbury losing almost £10,000 to a woman he met on Tinder.
As their conversations progressed to WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, she claimed to be a hard-working nurse who was struggling financially. This led to the victim sending her multiple bank payments ranging from £20 to £500 each time.
When he tried to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the woman, all contact suddenly stopped and her social media accounts disappeared. Realising he had been duped, the man reported the crime to Suffolk Trading Standards who are currently investigating the scammer.
Cllr Andrew Reid, Cabinet Member for Public Health, Public Protection and Communities commented: “Anyone can fall victim to romance scammers as they often come across as incredibly genuine and spend weeks gaining the trust of their victims and building up a relationship before asking for money.
“This emotional attachment makes it extremely difficult for the victim to say no, especially when they are fed a range of stories about illnesses or investment opportunities to encourage them to transfer cash to the scammer without a second thought.
“Many people can feel too embarrassed and ashamed to report romance scams, but it is important that they do so to help try and recover their money and stop others from being targeted by these cruel criminals in future.”
Suffolk Trading Standards urges people to remain vigilant when online dating, with someone declaring strong feelings after only a few conversations or refusing to video call or meet in person potentially being cause for concern.
Those who have swiped right for a scammer, been reeled in by Plenty of Fish fraudsters, or fallen victim to any other romance crimes should contact the national Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 or via their online reporting form.