Suffolk victims of 'romance scams' lose an average £13,500, study finds

Police have urged people using online dating profiles to 'stop and think' when they are messaging so

Romance scams usually involve a fraudster creating a fake online profile to attract, and eventually defraud victims over the internet - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

More than three-quarters-of-a-million pounds was lost by victims of romance scams in Suffolk last year, according to a new study.

Victims sent an average £13,483.05 to manipulative fraudsters under false pretences.

Women made up three quarters of victims, while those aged 50-59 were also the most likely to be affected. 

Suffolk's top Trading Standards officer said the latest figures likely underestimated the real number of scams, with many victims finding it too difficult to come forward.

The study, by online security website TechShielder, found that 5,027 cases were reported across the UK in 2020, including 59 in Suffolk.

Gloucestershire recorded the highest average loss per victim (£24,638), followed by North Wales (£18,966) and Gwent (£14,257).

Romance scams usually involve a fraudster creating a fake online profile to attract, and eventually defraud victims over the internet.

Graham Crisp, head of Suffolk County Council’s Trading Standards, said: “The scammer’s goal is usually to access the victim’s personal information and to take money from them.

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"They will invest a lot of time to develop a very personal relationship, so that requests for money appear honest.

"They are very skilled in manipulating their victim. We have even seen examples of these criminals sending handwritten letters, which would appear to be an incredibly genuine gesture, but is ultimately part of the elaborate scam.

“More concerning is the longer-term emotional distress and impact on the victim’s mental health.

"Many genuine relationships do begin online, and our advice would be to use established dating or friendship apps and remain on those to get to know someone.

"If you receive messages out of the blue by email or social media, treat them with extreme caution and never share your bank details or send money.

“The scammers are often part of a larger, international network worth millions of pounds, which can be used to fund further criminal activity.

"And sadly, these latest figures are likely to under-report the real number of these scams. It must be terribly difficult to come forward if you have been a victim, but I would encourage people to report their experiences, as you will help others who are the next to be targeted by these criminals.”

To report a romance scam, call Action Fraud on 0300 1232040 or visit actionfraud.police.uk, where you can also find advice on spotting the potential signs.

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