Police have urged internet users to be aware of fraudsters posing as online love interests – after a gang duped a woman out of £1.6 million.
The woman met a supposed love interest on an online dating site – with the man claiming to be a successful engineer.
But after the pair developed their friendship, the suspect and a number of his associates talked the woman into ‘loaning’ them the huge sums of cash over 10 months.
Two of the gang, Ife Ojo, 31, and Olusegun Agbaje, 43, are set to be sentenced later today after a successful investigation by FALCON, the Metropolitan Police’s specialist cyber crime and fraud detectives.
Detective Chief Inspector Gary Miles said: ‘Within the last year, FALCON has investigated the loss of £4 million in retaliation to 100 victims who have been ruthlessly manipulated by men and women pretending they love them.
‘The suspects showered them with compliments and confided their seemingly innermost secrets to them. In many cases, the suspects were talking to their victims online or over the phone for hours every day.
‘Romance scams are not the most prevalent fraud but the financial and emotional impact to victims is huge. Many victims borrow money from friends and family to pay the suspects. Victims typically feel embarrassed and ashamed when they realise they have been duped, so they often don’t report what has happened to them or even confide in a friend.
‘Anyone who believes they have been defrauded can talk in confidence to the police or report it to Action Fraud.’
Here’s the Met’s top tips in avoiding being conned by a potential partner online.
Internet cons – be in the know
- See through the sob stories: Con arts will attempt to tell you heart-rending life stories in a bid to gain your trust and sympathy. They might even ask you to send them money to help them get out of a difficult situation, but don’t fool for it.
- Don’t be fooled by a friendly photo: Scammers will often use a photo to support a story they are spinning. But this photo is likely to have been used for multiple victims, and you might find proof of the same scam on anti-fraud websites.
- Keep your money in your bank account: Don’t ever send money abroad to a person you have never met or don’t know well – despite how strongly you feel. It’s highly unlikely that anyone who loves you will ask you to hand over life savings and get into debt on their behalf.
- Question what you’re being told: Suspects will often pay you compliments and ask about your life, but tell you very little about themselves. Never disclose your personal details – this leaves you particularly susceptible to Fraud.
- Don’t keep the relationship quiet: Scammers will often ask you to keep a relationship secret, but it is all just a ruse to stop you from talking to someone who will realise that you’re being scammed. If you’re concerned about this possibility, stop communicating with them and report it to police straight away.