‘Romance fraud’ has seen millions lost through online dating scams.

Warwickshire Police are urging the families of online daters to prevent their relatives from becoming a victim of fraud.

Figures suggest almost £92 million was lost nationwide in the last year, with 84 people in Warwickshire reporting combined losses of almost £500,000.

The problem appears to peak after Valentine’s Day with 901 reports recorded by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) in March 2021, totalling losses of £8.7 million.

Temporary detective chief superintendent Matt Bradford, from the City of London Police, said: “Typically, romance fraudsters will spend weeks gaining their victims’ trust and initially make no suggestion of any desire to ask for money, so the victim may believe their new love interest is genuine.

“But weeks, or sometimes months later, these criminals ask for money and as the emotional relationship has already been formed, victims often transfer money without a second thought.

“We’re calling on family members who think their relatives may be dating online to help make them aware of the warning signs that they could be falling victim to fraud, particularly if the person dating online is not particularly tech savvy .”

To raise awareness of the issue, Warwickshire Police have shared the Sally’s* story.

Her father, in his 60s and suffering from Parkinson’s, lost £1,000 to a fraudster claiming to be a woman called Gail from Texas, USA.

Sally said: “This whole experience has been incredibly stressful, for me as well as for my father and it was really hard to approach the subject with him.”

Between November 2020 and October 2021, 8,863 cases of romance fraud were reported to NFIB, up from 6,968 reports in the 2020 calendar year.

However, this number could be much greater as victims of romance fraud are often less likely to report it.

Dr Hannah Shimko, communications and policy director at the Online Dating Association, said: “It is essential users educate themselves on how to be a smart online dater, and to be aware of the actions fraudsters will use to manipulate them.

“Daters should check in with trusted family and friends during their online dating journey to share experience, and friends and family can watch for any change in behaviour.”