One victim reports dating fraud every three hours according to the latest national figures from City of London Police
On average fraudsters ask their victims to transfer money within
one month of first contact.
Almost half (45%) of victims indicated that dating fraud had a
‘significant’ impact on their health or financial wellbeing
The average amount lost by a dating fraud victim in the UK is
New multi-agency partnership created to work with the Online Dating
Association to reduce the number of people who fall victim to
Every day, seven reports of dating fraud are received by Action Fraud – on
average one every three hours – an increase of 32% over a two year period
(from January 2013-December 2015) according to new national figures
released today by City of London Police (CoLP) (1).
In less than one month - 30 days - of contact, the average victim of dating
fraud will make their first transfer of money to the fraudster, (2)
demonstrating how quickly and easily these situations can escalate, and
will lose £10,000. (3) On average it takes only nine more days before a
report is made to Action Fraud about the fraudulent activity (4).
Between 2015 and 2016 nearly £40 million (5) was lost through dating fraud
with 3,889 reports (6) made in total. However, evidence suggests that this
doesn’t accurately represent the true scale of dating fraud due to the
embarrassment felt by some victims of fraud which can discourage them from
coming forward to report their experience. Almost half (45%) of victims who
reported to Action Fraud said that the crime had a ‘significant’ impact on
their health or financial wellbeing (7).
Victim Support (VS) and Age UK along with the City of London Police, London
Metropolitan Police (FALCON) (8) and Get Safe Online will, in a first for
the UK, all work in partnership with the Online Dating Association to
better understand how fraudsters operate and how they can most effectively
share safety messages to users of online dating sites and apps with the aim
of reducing the number of people falling victim to fraud.
The partnership will bring together leaders from multiple sectors:
technology; law enforcement and the charity sector, bringing expertise to
the issue, and working together collaboratively for the first time. They
will also widely publicise five #datesafe tips
across their websites and social media platforms for users of dating sites
Get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions - 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 your friends and family about your dating choices. 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've been speaking to them.
- Don’t move the conversation off the dating site messenger until you’re confident the person is who they say they are.
Neil Masters, National Fraud and Cyber Crime Lead at the independent
charity Victim Support, said:
“Dating fraud can shatter people’s lives both financially and emotionally
and we know that losing what felt like a trusting and very real
relationship is often what is most difficult to come to terms with.
“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 is reported to the
Commander Chris Greany, City of London Police and National Co-ordinator
for Economic Crime said:
“The growth in online dating has led to a rise in organised criminals
targeting people looking for love.
“These crimes destroy lives and the emotional damage often far outweighs
the financial loss.
“Never give money to people you meet online, no matter what emotional sob
story the person uses.”
Andrew McClelland CEO of the Online Dating Association said
: “People spend much of their lives online, communicating and meeting new
people via dating services or social networks. Fraudsters will normally try
to move you away from the service as soon as they can, so we encourage
users to continue communicating via the dating service which helps dating
providers to detect fraudulent behaviour.
“Millions of people have found their partners through online dating but if
you think you suspect fraudulent behaviour, please always report it to the
dating provider as well as the Police; that way we can make it even safer
for all users."
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director of Age UK said:
“It’s really positive that older people are joining dating websites, but we
would urge them to be aware of the real risks and take basic steps to stay
safe online. Feelings of loneliness and a desire for companionship can
increase an older person’s vulnerability to fraudsters which can end in
financial loss, ill health and heartache.
“With a quarter of dating fraud victims in their 50s, it’s really important
for older people to be aware of this kind of crime. Many of these
fraudsters are highly sophisticated criminals so people mustn’t feel
ashamed or embarrassed about it happening to them. We would urge any older
person who has, or may have been, a victim of romance fraud to speak to
Action Fraud, a family member or friend.”
Tony Neate, CEO of Get Safe Online commented:
"While we regularly hear good news stories about couples meeting online or
via dating apps, these findings show there is an increasing problem with
the number of cyber criminals out there who are looking to target
vulnerable people for significant financial gain. £10k is a staggering
amount for the average online dater to lose to a fraudster who they’ve been
led to believe is the real deal. It’s not just the financial loss though;
dating fraud can have a huge emotional impact on a victim too. We’ve spoken
to people who’ve lost everything – their savings, their homes – and in many
cases, it’s the whole family who suffers because of it.
“Anyone who has fallen in love knows how easy it is to get swept up in the
romance of it all and let their heart rule their head, so we’re urging
people to take a little caution when meeting someone new online. The best
thing you can do to avoid being taken in by the wrong person is tell a
close friend or family member before you get too involved so that they can
support you and offer advice if you’re having doubts.
“We also encourage people to check our ‘date-safe tips’ before meeting a
potential partner and take the time to find out if their match is genuine
or not. If you’re meeting up with a date you’ve met online, always tell
someone else where you are going. And don’t forget, it's very unlikely that
anyone with good intentions would ask for money and if it doesn't feel
right, it probably isn't."
Gary Miles Detective Chief Inspector at the Metropolitan Police – Op
: “The people who perpetrate this type of offence are ruthless, organised,
committed and without conscience to the pain, embarrassment and financial
loss they cause to their victims. Their methodology is sophisticated. This
campaign is the beginning of a collaboration designed to prevent these type
of offences from occurring, by raising awareness among the public and by
identifying and targeting the key techniques that the suspects use. Please
use the dating tips as it will help you to avoid becoming victim to these
David (58) was using an online dating website and came across someone who
he thought was an old friend. They got chatting and it wasn’t long before
Kerry* had asked him to send £500 towards a plane ticket she needed to buy
urgently (she didn’t specify details on where it was to). Unfortunately
Kerry wasn’t who she said she was. She was in fact a fraudster who went to
great lengths to deceive David; sending copies of immigration papers,
passport and a plane ticket. David began to get suspicious after a few
months so he asked her to prove who she was and she put someone on the
phone who was meant to be her father, close friend and solicitor. The week
Kerry was due to arrive in the UK David was really excited. He’d become
very fond of her and would phone, text and email day and night. Kerry even
called David from the airport to say she was on her way, but later that
night he received a call from someone at immigration to say they had
arrested someone pretending to be Kerry. They told David that Kerry would
go to prison unless he sent more money for a document she urgently needed
and while he wanted to help he just couldn’t. He told her he had already
handed over his entire life savings (£15,000) and that he “wasn’t a
millionaire”. After the breakdown of the relationship, David was absolutely
distraught and felt very alone. He later found out from his bank that he
was part of a much larger scam worth a total of £7 million pounds – with
multiple victims and people pretending to be various individuals.
David says “I was devastated by what happened to me and it’s massively
changed my life. I don’t feel like I can trust anyone anymore and I find it
hard to meet any potential new partner. It’s taken some time to resolve my
financial situation too as that was a large portion of my savings. Without
Victim Support I don’t think I’d be here now.”