Government is failing romance fraud victims as rapid rise in online crime sees people lose more than £68 million in one year

The Government has been accused of failing victims of romance fraud with calls for urgent investment in policing to tackle a rapid rise in the online crime which has seen people lose more than £68m in just one year.

Figures obtained exclusively by The Yorkshire Post from Action Fraud have revealed there were 6,758 reports of romance fraud reported to police forces across the UK during 2020, with criminals using the Covid-19 pandemic to their advantage to prey on the lonely and vulnerable.

Of those cases reported to police, a total of £68,204,667 was lost.

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Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds has now urged Ministers to tackle the growing threat of fraudsters posing as potential suitors online to then dupe victims out of tens of thousands of pounds.

Figures obtained exclusively by The Yorkshire Post from Action Fraud have revealed there were 6,758 reports of romance fraud reported to police forces across the UK during 2020, with criminals using the Covid-19 pandemic to their advantage to prey on the lonely and vulnerable.

He told The Yorkshire Post said: "These are shocking figures, and romance fraud has devastated victims and families.

The Government is itself failing victims of fraud up and down the country. Cuts to policing over the past decade have meant forces have lacked the necessary resources, officers and staff to address this crime, that has worsened during the pandemic.

"It is time the UK government stepped up and took action on this."

The figures obtained by The Yorkshire Post have shown that the South-East had the largest number of reports to police with a total of 932, followed by London with 889 and the east of England with 821.

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The Labour MP for Sheffield Heeley, Louise Haigh, said: "Online dating apps have exponentially increased the opportunities for people to scam unsuspecting strangers and, tragically, we have seen thousands of people fall victim to this type of victim fraud.

"It is undeniably the case that the police do not have the resources, skills or expertise to tackle the volumes of fraud that we are seeing on a daily basis and we need to see concerted action from the Government on this.

"But the apps and sites could do more themselves – greater steps to verify identity and guidance to protect their users would be a good start."

Recent examples of those targeted include a retired truck driver from South Yorkshire who lost the £15,000 he had saved for his funeral to a criminal claiming to be a woman in London he met on a dating site.

The Government said it is continuing with its efforts to crackdown on all forms of fraud in the UK.

Home Office Minister Baroness Williams said: “It is despicable that criminals use emotional manipulation to exploit and defraud people.

“The Home Office worked closely with City of London Police on a national campaign running throughout October to raise greater public awareness about romance fraud, which included targeted protect messaging being displayed on dating websites and apps.

“Operational activity conducted during the campaign led to a number of arrests and has already resulted in over £140,000 being repatriated to UK victims.

“We are continuing our efforts to crack down on all forms of fraud by working closely with industry, law enforcement and regulators to reduce the number of victims and ensure they get the support and advice they need.”