Don't fall victim to romance fraud (14 Feb 2017)

If you think you've met your perfect match online, make sure the person you've fallen for is only looking to steal your heart…

On-line scammers can target people looking for romance, building up online relationships with their victims and then asking for money and other goods before disappearing off into cyber space.

It is thought many victims are too embarrassed to come forward to report what happened.

Detective Inspector Benn Kemp of the West Yorkshire Police Cyber Crime Team, said: "So called romance fraud is particularly cruel and can have a devastating impact on victims simply looking for love.

"As well as the emotional impact the financial cost can be high too - the average amount lost by UK victims of dating fraud is thought to be around £10,000.

"Between 2015 and 2016 there were 3,889 reported incidents in the UK, which led to losses of almost £40 million.

"We believe however, that there may be more victims out there with many too embarrassed to come forward and report what has happened.

"I want to urge victims to come forward and tell us what has happened and to not be concerned or worried about coming forward.

"We will do all we can to help and help to ensure others do not fall victim."

There are also steps you can take to help minimise the risk of being targeted by dating fraud

#DateSafe tips include:

Get to know the person, not the profile. Ask plenty of questions and don't rush into an online relationship.

Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term 'dating scam' into your search engine.

Talk to friends and family about your online dating. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.

Never send money to someone you've met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you have been speaking to them.

Don't move the conversation off the dating site messenger until you're confident they are who they say they are.

Support is also available for those who have been targeted.

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner said: "Heartless criminals will look for any way to get an easy payday. I would urge anyone looking to date online and particularly around Valentine's Day to be careful and never send anyone you've not met in person money.

"If you have been the victims of dating fraud or any other online crime then please report it. I know it can be very difficult to come forward but the sooner you report it the sooner you can get support."

Neil Masters, the national fraud and cyber crime lead for Victim Support, said: "We want to encourage anyone who may have been affected by this to seek help.

"People shouldn't feel ashamed or embarrassed if they have been tricked in this way. We offer free and confidential support to help people move on with their lives, regardless of whether or not what's happened has been reported to the police."

If you're concerned you or someone you know is a victim of dating fraud, call 101, or report it to Action Fraud (http://www.actionfraud.police.uk/) on 0300 123 2040.

Contact Victim Support (www.victimsupport.org.uk)

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2017