Figures show 149 victims in Sussex lost a total of £2,280,000 over one year to romance fraud.

Sussex police have supported a new video produced by the Metropolitan Police warning people about romance fraud.

The crime involves fraudsters gaining a victim’s trust, normally through a dating site, and asking for money.

According to the force, almost 90% of cases involve victims contacted through Facebook or email.

Fraudsters tell them they need money for a family emergency, flights over to see them or other pretexts.

Sussex police said four out of five romance fraud attempts succeed, and 57% of victims live alone with the average age of 62.

PC Bernadette Lawrie, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer at Sussex Police said:

“Romance fraud, although accounting for only 10 of all fraud reports, is one of the most despicable crimes we see, and the victims can be among the most challenging to deal with as they are often in denial that the fraudster they are in contact with is not genuine – until it is too late.

“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.”

Operation Signature is a Sussex police campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud.

Officers said the force has a process for recognising the victims and providing preventative measures to protect them in future.

It includes help with changing a phone number, contacting family, mail redirection and other support services.

Bernadette Lawrie said:

“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.”

Prevention teams in Sussex are helping to raise awareness of the issue, along with social media and local news.

The police have given the following advice:

  • Never send or give money to anyone you do not know or trust.
  • Check people are who they say they are.
  • Don’t share your personal information.
  • Make decisions in your own time.
  • If in doubt, phone a relative or friend.

For further information about Operation Signature, visit the Sussex police website here.