Romance fraud costs Sussex victims millions

Sussex Police are supporting a national initiative warning the public not to be ‘romanced’ into becoming a fraud victim ahead of Valentine’s Day.

£2.5m was lost in Sussex last year from romance fraud, according to police and Action Fraud has warned people how to spot signs of it.

Reports made to Action Fraud revealed that nationally a staggering £50,766,602 was lost to romance fraud in 2018, with average of £11,145 per victim according to police.

In Sussex during 2018, 157 victims lost a total of £2,561,906, with an average loss of £16,318.

With 127 out of 157 attempts succeeded, with 61% live of victims live alone and their average age are 65, according to police.

PC Bernadette Lawrie BEM, Financial Abuse Safeguarding Officer for Sussex & Surrey Police said:

“Romance fraud, accounts for 10% of all vulnerable victim fraud reports across our counties and is one of the most despicable crimes we see.

“With the devastating and lasting impact it has on victims going far beyond the financial loss.

“Victims are targeted and exploited when they are at their most vulnerable.

“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.”

Two case workers funded by Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner (SPCC) Katy Bourne, and working through Victim Support, help support vulnerable victims of fraud.

The pair follow up on referrals from Operation Signature, Sussex Police’s project which identifies and support vulnerable victims of fraud.

Detective Inspector Mark O’Brien of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit said:

“Operation Signature is the Sussex Police campaign to identify and support vulnerable victims of fraud across the county.

“Fraud is becoming more complex and deceptive, and much of it is targeted at vulnerable and elderly people.”

Police advice to take preventative steps against fraud:

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