ONLINE dating fraud has cost victims £27m collectively over the last year, shock new police figures reveal.
The average UK victim of “romance fraud” lost £10,000, according to the data, released by the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) and Get Safe Online as Valentine’s Day approaches.
More than 2,700 online dating-related crimes were reported to the police over the 12 months from the start of November 2014 to the end of October 2015.
The actual total amount lost is thought to be much higher - as many crimes go unreported due to victims being too embarrassed.
Nearly two-thirds of all romance scams originated on dating sites, with one in four originating on social media and one in 10 being initiated via email. Some reported dating frauds also originated from contact made through dating apps.
Some 62 per cent victims were aged between 40 and 69 years old - with people aged in their 50s the most likely targets.
The Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, Cdr Chris Greany from City of London Police, said: “Romance fraudsters are using every method available to exploit people looking for love - including dating websites, social media and direct emails.
“These heartless criminals will specifically target those who they deem to be vulnerable and most likely to fall for their scams.
“Our intelligence tells us that people aged 50 to 59 are the most likely to become a victim of dating fraud and therefore need to be especially careful when going online in search of a partner.”
Victims of fraud should report it to Action Fraud, the UK’s national fraud reporting centre, by calling 0300 123 20 40 or by visiting www.actionfraud.police.uk.
All reports made to Action Fraud are reviewed by the NFIB, which decides whether they should be used for enforcement, intelligence or disruption activity.
Get Safe Online is an internet security awareness-raising initiative, supported by Government bodies, banks, building societies, payment services and retailers.
Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online, said: “The financial loss is one thing, but it’s the emotional impact this sort of crime has which is severe.
“When someone places a lot of trust and faith in a person who they think they know, they often don’t separate their emotional feelings from rationale.”