Skip Content

Romance fraud victim warns others to be wary of online threats


CLICK HERE claim your free fraud advice booklet.


A ‘heartbroken’ cancer survivor who was conned out of thousands of pounds in a romance fraud has warned it could happen to anyone.

Karen, who lives in the Mansfield area, met her would-be love interest on an online gaming platform. He tricked her into believing he had feelings for her, before grooming her into handing over money over the months that followed.

The romance fraud started when the 66-year-old downloaded SongPop Classic, a music-based game which allows players to compete against and chat with others while online.

She was approached by a man who claimed to be a 56-year-old Canadian working overseas, and despite not being on the lookout for romance when the conversation began, Karen was showered with compliments by the scammer and over time convinced that a romantic relationship was blossoming.

But things quickly started to unravel when she started to receive multiple phone calls long into the night and requests for money followed. It left her significantly out of pocket and mentally scarred by the whole situation.

Romance fraud, or dating scams, often involve individuals being exploited into sending money to criminals, who go to great lengths to gain their trust and convince them they are in a relationship.

It is one of the fastest growing and most common fraud types in Nottinghamshire – rising almost fourfold from 43 reported incidents in the 12 months to 2020 to 166 incidents in the same period last year.

Speaking about romance fraud on Valentine’s Day today, as part of an awareness-raising campaign by the Nottinghamshire Fraud Partnership, Karen said she was left heartbroken and frightened by the ordeal.

Having moved to Nottinghamshire in 2012 to be closer to her mum after her cancer diagnosis, Karen believes the scammers preyed on her vulnerabilities.

The former elections manager said: “I used to play the game a few years ago, but before I started up again and without me knowing, it had been infested with scammers.

“This chap started talking to me as many people do, and he seemed like quite a nice, genuine sort of guy. We then moved on to other social media platforms which I now know is one of their favourite tricks because most of the gaming platforms have bots that routinely check for scammers for key words and so on.

“We would speak all the time and I believed his feelings were genuine, so of course over a long period you are bound to grow close to somebody.

“A lot of what he said was believable but his first request for money came when he claimed to be working away and he needed medicine, but it escalated from there and the demands became more excessive each time.

“The scam itself went on for months but the after-effects are going to last a lot longer. They know every psychological trick in the book you don’t matter to them.

“I like to believe in basic human decency, but he knew all about my health problems and still continued to scam me. It’s frightening but that’s what these people do.

“One of the hardest things to deal with is when people start saying you fell for a scam. You don't fall for a burglary, you don't fall for a mugging. You don't fall for a scam, either. It's a crime. You are a victim of a crime.”

Fraud is the most common of all crime types, with an average of 543 offences reported each month to Action Fraud in Nottinghamshire. However, this is likely to be just the tip of the iceberg with many offences going unreported.

The fightback against fraud intensified in 2023 as the Nottinghamshire Fraud Partnership was formed to protect individuals and businesses in Nottinghamshire from fraudulent activity, and better support those who have been victimised.

It brings together key organisations including police, local authorities, businesses, education sector and charity partners to strengthen the fight against fraud by sharing information and best practice and collaborating on a wider reaching, focussed and consistent approach to the issue.

The partnership meets quarterly and is facilitated and administered by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Nottinghamshire.

Nottinghamshire Police and Crime Commissioner Caroline Henry said: “I think it’s really brave for Karen to share her story to help stop others being victims of fraud.

“Around 40% of all crime is now classed as fraud and these numbers were the main factor behind us launching our Nottinghamshire Fraud Partnership Charter at the end of 2023.

“As Police and Crime Commissioner I am really determined to raise awareness of fraud which is why This month we have also launched the Red Flags of Fraud, to highlight some of the key warning signs for fraud to look out for.

“If anyone contacts you out of the blue by phone, email, text or on your doorstep, and makes you feel a sense of high emotion, whether that is panic or excitement, and then urges you to act quickly before you have time to think – these are all red flags for fraud.

“If the red flags are flying, stop, take five minutes to reflect and contact someone you trust for advice. And if you have been affected by fraud, please report it so you can receive help and support.”

Dating scams accounted for 4% of all fraud offences reported between September 2022 and August 2023.

Karen added: “It went on for months and months because they simply wouldn't go away. They'd ring me in the middle of the night to keep my mind going.

“They manipulated me and they found out my likes, dislikes, strengths and weaknesses before using all of that to control me.

“The most frightening thing was the realisation that somebody can manipulate your brain to the extent that you are not in your right mind.”

Detective Sergeant Tara Clapperton, of Nottinghamshire Police’s Fraud Prevention team, said: “A lot of people hear about these scams and think ‘I wouldn’t be taken in by that’. But these scams are clever and that’s why it’s really important people exercise vigilance communicating with others online.

“It’s not dissimilar to grooming. Offenders will groom victims and it can happen over quite a long period of time.

“They tell convincing lies and it means that while victims think they are falling in love, they’re actually falling for a scam.

“Online dating can be a fun and empowering experience, but to avoid becoming a victim to romance fraud, it’s really important people follow some really simple advice: If you’ve started an online relationship and the discussion turns to money – regardless of the reason or the amounts involved – then alarm bells should be ringing.

“Never send money to people you’ve never met in person, no matter how much you’ve spoken online. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.

“We would also urge anyone who believes they have been a victim of romance fraud to contact the police. Don't be embarrassed to tell us what you are going through. We can help and support you if you are going through a rough time.”

Listen to Karen's story HERE.

If you’ve been a victim of fraud, there are several ways to report it:

CLICK HERE claim your free fraud advice booklet.

Posted on Wednesday 14th February 2024
Share this