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                                                    ROMANCE FRAUD

 Whilst we have highlighted Romance Fraud in previous messages, it continues to target vulnerable victims with resultant harm not only to their finances but also their emotions, mental health and general well-being. So, the message is worth repeating.
Once they have gained your confidence and trust through their fake profile, they may create heart rending pleas about personal or family problems, and emergencies which need finance. These play on your better nature and, may even create a guilt complex in you, if you do not send them money which they usually require urgently. 

Are any platforms safe?

Fraudsters continue to target users of popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, as well as dating sites such as Tinder and Plenty of Fish. 
Messaging sites such as Google Hangouts and WhatsApp may also be used to find unsuspecting victims. Scammers are usually quick to persuade you to move off Social media sites, where they may be blocked, and on to messaging platforms such as WhatsApp.

As well as conventional dating platforms, online Gaming platforms may be used to seek potential victims since there are fewer protective measures in place.


Who are their targets?

Females over 40 years are common victims, as well as younger males, but users also need to be aware on age-related dating platforms too. 

How does it work?
Basically, criminals will go to great lengths to gain the victim’s trust by claiming they are in a genuine relationship and this is built up over time
•    They will manipulate and exploit the victim to the extent they are persuaded they are in a real and genuine relationship
•    Then, when they ask for money, the victim is convinced there is no problem with the request
•    The requests can be very emotive citing reasons such as medical emergencies, travel costs, payment of fines or taxes, or even claiming their bank account has been frozen

Tell-tale signs a friend or family member is involved in a Romance Scam
•    They may be very secretive about their relationship or provide excuses for why their online partner has not video called or met them in person. 
•    They may be unwilling to discuss their online relationship
•    They may express very strong emotions and commitment to someone they have only just met
•    They have sent, or are planning to send, money to someone they have not met face-to-face. They may take out loans or withdraw from their pension to send money.

Stay safe
•    Never send money to someone you have never met in person
•    Never part with your bank or personal details to strangers online however genuine they claim to be
•    Always seek advice from somebody trusted before parting with any money in any format, whether it is bank transfers, PayPal, Gift Cards or bitcoin currencies.
•    Profile photos are very often fake, you can research any image by doing a “Reverse Image” search to find photos that have been copied from elsewhere.
•    Never share images of yourself that you would not want your own family and friends to see

And finally
In the event that you have been scammed, beware subsequently of emails and messages claiming to be from Fraud Recovery Firms, as highlighted in last week’s message. This may well be the criminal using another tactic to gain monies from you.
Please feel free to share this information with any family, friends, or neighbours that you think it may be able to assist.


Take Five to Stop Fraud

STOP: Taking a moment to stop and think before parting with your money or information could keep you safe. 
CHALLENGE: Could it be fake? It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests. Only criminals will try to rush or panic you. 
PROTECT: Contact your bank immediately if you think you’ve fallen for a scam and report it to Action Fraud

•    Avoid disclosing security details
•    Emails, Phone Calls and Texts may not be authentic
•    Always make direct contact with any organisation by using a genuine phone number 
•    Stop and Challenge any unexpected requests
•    Protect others by reporting Fraud and Scams
If you’ve fallen for a scam
report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via actionfraud.police.uk

Scam Text messages can be forwarded to 7726 to help phone providers take early action and block numbers that generate spam on their networks.

Forward Fake Emails received to report@phishing.gov.uk

If you think your bank account or personal banking details have been used fraudulently, then use the short phone number - 159 - to contact the Fraud Prevention Department of most major UK banks.


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Message Sent By
Michael Barbour
(Police, PSV, Economic Crime Unit – Fraud Protect’ )

Neighbourhood Alert Cyber Essentials