South Yorkshire Police issues warning as romance fraud costs victims £611,000
A warning about romance fraud has been issued by South Yorkshire Police, with victims having lost £611,000 in scams.
The force is supporting a national drive to raise awareness of romance fraud following a 26 per cent rise in reports nationally in the last year.
Romance fraud involves criminals conning men or women into believing they are in love then emptying their bank accounts.
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Often fraudsters use fake profiles to befriend people online and con victims into believing they are in a loving relationship so that they can steal their personal information and cash.
Action Fraud has received 97 reports of romance fraud from victims in South Yorkshire in the 12 months up to August 2020, with reported losses of more than £611,000.
The majority of victims were over 40 years old.
South Yorkshire’s Fraud Protection Officer, Andy Foster, said: “Romance fraud is a particularly nasty crime which affects victims not only financially, but also emotionally. The impact upon a victim, and their family and loved ones, can be significant and long-lasting.
“I have met dozens of victims of romance fraud to provide support, advice and information on how to prevent becoming a repeat victim of these cruel, heartless criminals.
“The victims I have spent time with are often in denial - they can't comprehend that their whole online relationship is a lie and the person at the other end of the internet is nothing more than a scammer wanting money."
During June, July and August, Action Fraud received 30 reports of romance fraud in South Yorkshire.
Mr Foster added: Andy added: “The victims of romance fraud can often be older people, who are more likely to be shielding or spending less time with loved ones during the pandemic. They may therefore welcome the thought of companionship and love from someone online.
“For these shameless criminals to exploit those who have been left particularly vulnerable during the coronavirus outbreak is simply horrendous.”
John Eric Wells, aged 61, is wanted over three high value romance frauds, during which victims lost more than £400,000.
The offences took place from September 2014 onwards in Doncaster, Sussex and London.
Wells also uses the names Howard Walmsley and Howard Hemmings.