Romance fraud, also known as dating fraud or relationship fraud, is a type of online scam in which criminals use fake identities to trick people into forming a romantic relationship with them. Once the victim has developed feelings for the scammer, the fraudster will often ask for money or personal information, which the victim willingly provides in the belief that they are helping their new partner.
In the UK, romance fraud is a growing problem. According to Action Fraud, the UK's national reporting centre for fraud and cybercrime, there were 4,555 reported cases of romance fraud in 2020, with losses totalling £68 million.
To expose romance fraud, a professional investigator accredited by the Association of British Investigators (ABI) will be able to assist the investigation.
Here are some steps that investigators can take:
1. Gather information:
The first step in any investigation is to gather as much information as possible about the victim and the suspected fraudster. This can include their names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, and social media profiles.
2. Check the facts:
Investigators can use online tools and databases to verify the information provided by the victim and the fraudster. This can include checking social media profiles, conducting reverse image searches, and checking public records.
3. Conduct interviews:
Investigators can interview the victim, possibly the fraudster, and anyone else who may have information about the case. This can help to uncover inconsistencies in the fraudster's story and identify any accomplices.
4. Analyse financial records:
Investigators can analyse the victim's financial records to identify any suspicious transactions or patterns of behaviour. This can help to determine how much money has been lost and where it has gone.
5. Look for warning signs:
There are several warning signs that can indicate that someone may be a victim of romance fraud. These include a reluctance to discuss their relationship with friends and family, sudden requests for money, and the use of fake photos or identities. Investigators should be aware of these signs and look for them during the investigation.
6. Use undercover techniques:
In some cases, investigators may need to use undercover techniques, such as creating fake profiles or using covert surveillance, to gather evidence. This should only be done with the permission of the victim and in accordance with the law.
7. Provide support to the victim:
Victims of romance fraud can suffer significant emotional and financial harm. Investigators should provide support to the victim throughout the investigation and connect them with resources that can help them recover, such as victim support services and financial advisors.
8. Work with law enforcement:
If the investigation uncovers evidence of criminal activity, investigators can work with law enforcement to bring the fraudster to justice. This may involve providing evidence in court.
9. Educate the public:
To prevent romance fraud from happening in the first place, the ABI also works to educate the public about the risks of online dating and how to avoid becoming a victim of these scams. This includes providing tips on how to spot fake profiles and warning signs to watch out for.
In summary, romance fraud is a serious problem in the UK, and professional investigators can play a key role in exposing these scams and bringing fraudsters to justice. By gathering information, checking the facts, conducting interviews, analysing financial records, and working with law enforcement, investigators can help victims prevent being scammed, recover their losses, and prevent others from falling prey to these scams.
It's important to note that investigating romance fraud can be a complex and time-consuming process, and it's not something that should be attempted without the proper training and expertise.
Victims of romance fraud also need to be aware that other fraudsters masquerading as investigators are prevalent on the internet waiting to prey on vulnerable victims; see for example the recent case reported here…
ABI professional investigators with experience in fraud investigations are best equipped to handle victims’ cases.