Hampshire Constabulary's message to  the public to stay safe online as reports of romance fraud rise 26 per cent in a year.

Hampshire Constabulary is working together with all UK police forces and partners, to tackle romance fraud this October after reports of online romance fraud rise by 26 per cent last year.

The multi-agency campaign, co-ordinated by the City of London Police (CoLP) runs throughout October, aiming to raise awareness of romance fraud and provide clear and unambiguous protection advice to the public.

Detective Inspector Sue Orr of Hampshire Constabulary’s economic crime unit, said: “Romance fraud occurs when you think you’ve met the perfect partner online but they are using a fake profile to form a relationship with you. You can meet them via an online dating website or app, social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, or gaming sites.

“They gain your trust over a number of weeks or months and have you believe you are in a loving and caring relationship. However, the criminal’s end goal is only ever to get your money or personal information.”

Between August 2019 and August 2020, 222 reports of romance fraud were made to Action Fraud by residents of Hampshire.

The total reported loss in the same time period was £2million, equating to an average loss per victim of just over £9,000.

While there was a rise in reported incidents of romance fraud within Hampshire (33) in July – a 175 per cent increase on the previous month, indicating residents have met romance fraudsters during the  lockdown.

Residents in the 40 – 59 age bracket were the most at risk of romance fraud, accounting for over two fifths (42 per cent) of reported incidents in Hampshire during this time period.

Residents aged 60-69 were the next age group at risk, while those aged 70 – 89 are low risk, accounting for 13 per cent of all reports.

DI Sue Orr, added: “We appreciate that the majority of open communications via online dating and other platforms are genuine and shouldn’t arouse suspicion, it is always worth taking a moment to stop and think if the person could be someone that they are not. Think before parting with any money or information which could keep you safe.

“If in doubt, challenge that person; is this person really who they say they are? It’s OK to reject, refuse or ignore any requests for your financial or personal details. Only criminals will try to rush or pressure you into making a decision.”

The top five platforms where victims reported first interacting with the criminal committing romance fraud were Facebook, Plenty of Fish, Instagram, Tinder and Match.com.