Innovative support group set up for Yorkshire victims of romance fraud as cases rise during lockdown

A new support group, only the second of its kind in the country, has been set up for victims of romance fraud in Yorkshire following a surge in scams during the lockdowns.

Detective Sergeant Ben Robinson from Humberside Police.

The new initiative has been created between Humberside Police and Victim Support after the force received 73 reports of online romance fraud during 2020, with victims losing over £1 million.

According to a recent YouGov survey, the number of people spending more time on dating apps has increased by eight per cent across Yorkshire and the Humber since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic and many popular dating apps have seen a surge in downloads.

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Detective Sergeant Ben Robinson, of Humberside Police, said: “In the past year, the Covid-19 pandemic has made it genuinely harder to meet people in person.

“Loneliness has been a widely reported side effect of the pandemic and many people have taken to online dating for companionship. Unfortunately, we’ve seen that this has led to an increase in reports of romance scams and people losing money.

“Romance fraud is one of the most devastating for our victims to deal with because they have suffered losses both financially and emotionally.

“These scams can be extremely sophisticated and victims should not feel ashamed or embarrassed and shouldn’t blame themselves in any way.

“It’s important that victims know there is help available to them and we would encourage them to seek support."

The new support group enables victims to speak to one another about their experiences and offer support.

Julie Butcher, the operations manager for Humberside Victim Support, said: “Many victims tell us that they feel they should have seen what was happening. Many are also unsure that it was fraud, even after reporting or ending the relationship.

"Supporting each other is a good way to understand what has happened and move forward.

"We feel that facilitating these support groups alongside our police colleagues is a good way for people to access help and would encourage anyone to contact us to find out more.”