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Online dating scams: fresh tricks that fleece victims of an average ?9, 589

Online dating scams: new tricks that fleece victims of an average ?9, 589

A 60-year-old’s tale of losing £,60,000 through an online dating scam is a stark warning to others

7:08AM BST 03 Oct 2014

Singletons sign up to online dating sites in the hope of finding love, but they are increasingly being targeted by fraudsters.

Someone you have embarked to develop a relationship with online might very first ask for money for travel costs, or say they have lost their plane ticket so need to borrow some cash for a fresh one. They might say a family member is ill and they need funds for urgent medical treatment.

According to latest figures, these requests for cash show up to be working. There were 651 dating scams reported in the three months to August this year, with the average victim paying out ?9,589. In July, the average payout was as high as ?Ten,882.

With one in four British adults using a dating website at some point in their life, according to Which?, users are being warned to be vigilant while online, particularly as the fraudster’s tactics are becoming more elaborate.

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Activity Fraud UK, the country’s fraud and internet crime reporting centre, says it has been alerted to fresh methods used by dating fraudsters.

One includes the scammer telling the victim that they don’t have enough annual leave left to come and visit them but that they can buy some from their employer. This costs around ?250 a day, so Ten days will cost ?Two,500. They will then ask the victim to pay, and if they do, the fraudster might also ask them to pay for the flight.

Another scam involves customs. “Fraudsters claim they have found a box containing gold, silver, money and jewels (or any one of them) in the desert and have sent it out of the country to set up a future together with the victim,” said Activity Fraud UK. “However, this box is now stuck in (x) country’,s customs. In order to release it they claim they have to pay a customs release fee –, which is then requested from the victim.”

Online dating scams are nothing fresh, but they are on the rise. From April 2013 to March 2014, there were Two,037 cases of dating scams reported to Act Fraud, with the 651 scams over the summer marking an acceleration.

The online dating websites say there is little they can do to restrict this type of fraud. A spokesman for Match.com, Britain’s most well-known dating site, said people should apply the same common sense as if in a bar or a pub. “This includes never providing money to anyone –, just as you would never give money to someone you recently met in a pub or cafe –, and not sharing private contact details that take conversations off the site,” he said.

Back in 2010, Brenda Parke, a 60-year-old retiree, was scammed out of ?60,000 after joining an online dating site and befriending a man purporting to be a successful Dutch businessman called Bradford Cole.

Mr Cole told Ms Parke that he was a widower and that he had moved to Britain with his youthfull daughter, Maureen.

He said that while abroad on business, his daughter had been injured in a hit and run accident and he required ?9,600 for the operation in hospital.

Through subtle manipulation, the fraudster encouraged Ms Parke to pay up. However hesitant, she eventually made the transfers and went on to send a further ?44,500 to Mr Cole for various travel costs, accommodation, and to help him with his business. Ms Parke realised her mistake when Mr Cole failed to arrive at Birmingham airport where they had agreed to meet so that he could go to the bank with her and comeback her money.

“With fine hindsight, I am fully aware of how utterly stupid I have been,” said Ms Parke, “and I appreciate that there is little, if any, chance of getting my money back.

“My embarrassment is tremendous but I feel that I must take this step in reporting my practice in order to help promote awareness and to help other innocents to avoid such devastating situations,” she added.

Protect yourself against dating fraud

•, Trust your instincts. If you think something feels wrong, it very likely is.

•, Always guard your privacy online and be careful about what information you share.

•, Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’,t know and trust.

•, Communicate with people locally and not from overseas, albeit you should be aware that someone might tell you they are in the same country as you when they are not.

•, Never reply to communications from someone who you meet on a dating site/talk room or social networking website that then wants proceed the communication by email.

•, If you think a profile is fake, check the website for details on reporting it. Usually there will be links or buttons on profiles to block or report individuals.

•, If you are a victim of dating fraud you can call Activity Fraud on 0300 123 2040, actionfraud.police.uk.

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