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Sussex Police is encouraging victims of romance fraud to report the ‘fraudster’ who has targeted them, anonymously, via an online form.

The force has linked up with Scamalytics who have produced a form which, once completed free of charge, will be sent to genuine dating services for them to check against their users’ data to detect suspected romance fraudsters.

Romance fraud is a fast growing issue which affects both men and women. Fraudsters will prey on their victims by building, what feels like, a loving relationship before asking for money to help with a problem they are experiencing.

Once the initial payment is made, the fraudster will normally ask for more money or cut all contact with the victim.

Reports made to Action Fraud reveal that £50,766,602 was lost to romance fraud in 2018 – an average of £11,145 per victim and a 27% increase on the previous year.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, BEM, the Sussex Police Financial Abuse Safeguarding officer, said: “Romance fraud, accounts for 10% of all vulnerable victim fraud reports across our counties and is one of the most despicable crimes we see due to the devastating and lasting impact it has on victims going far beyond the financial loss.

“Victims are targeted and exploited when they are at their most vulnerable and the complex tactics and deceitful tales that lure the victims into parting with such huge sums of money are quite astonishing.

“One of the most difficult conversations we have is telling a victim that not only will they not see their money come back but that the person they believe they are in a relationship with and are looking forward to a future with, is in fact a criminal posing under a false identity.”

Advice tips for evading scammers are:

Be wary of giving out personal information
Never agree to keep your online relationship a secret
Get to know the person and not the profile
Never send money or share your bank details on the platform
Stay on the dating messenger service until confident the person is who they say they are
Run a search on the internet for their name or any picture they have sent along with the term ‘scam’

For more information on romance fraud and how to report via the Scamalytics form please click here.

Police Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne said: “Romance fraud is a cruel crime which preys on our vulnerabilities. This is why I have funded two fraud case workers in Sussex who helped and supported 638 people last year alone by offering invaluable emotional support as well as practical advice when they fell victim to this heinous crime.

“I’m currently running a short poll on my website to find out more about people’s understanding of romance fraud. Please take part in the poll here.”