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Romance Fraud - The risk of online dating

Over the previous few years fraudsters have been turning to online dating apps or websites in an effort to extort money from unsuspecting victims in search of finding their perfect partner.

Fraudsters will frequently create a profile normally using stolen photographs before exchanging messages in an effort to connect with their victims enough for them to be able to convince them to send money. They tend to target vulnerable individuals who are recently divorced, widowed or disabled.

Figures from the National Fraud Bureau and Get safe Online have shown that during 2016, online dating fraud in the UK cost 3,889 victims a staggering £39 million. In October 2018, the Daily Telegraph reported that 37% of these frauds result in a loss in excess of £5,000 with those aged between 45 and 64 years of age making 55% of the victims. Men also make up around 37% of the victims targeted.

In 2015 Young Ewere, 31, from Bedfordshire, Uwaifo Ogbeide, 34, from South East London, and Renatus Ahadome, 27, from West London were collectively sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for their part in an online dating fraud targeting women some of whom lost in excess of £200,000.

In 2016 a business woman in North London lost £1.6 million to online dating fraudsters and in 2017 Grace Akintaro was convicted of fraud, targeting seven men who collectively lost over £100,000. She was sentenced to 27 months custody.

Whilst there are no known figures in relation to the number of cases that go unreported, it is believed that a large number are not reported to the authorities as the victims are too embarrassed to do so.

There have also been instances where the victims have realised that they are being scammed, confront the fraudster only for the fraudster to admit that 'It was a scam when it started but I have subsequently fallen in love with you.' Unfortunately this persuaded the victim to continue paying money to the fraudster.

Such instances occur more than you may think and should be reported to the Police at the earliest opportunity. In the event that the Police do not pursue the case, a private prosecution can also be used to obtain justice.

A private prosecution can be brought by any individual or company. Unlike when entrusting cases to the Police and CPS you control the prosecution and work with a dedicated team committed to your case. The costs incurred by bringing a private prosecution can also be recouped win or lose (as long as the case is properly brought) and are not dependant on the accused having sufficient funds to be able to pay these costs.

We  have extensive experience in bringing prosecutions and use a highly experienced team of investigators made up of former detectives and ex-military from elite departments who have extensive capabilities in traditional and cyber investigation. If you would like more information in relation to a private prosecution, please contact Jeremy Asher or Robert Readfern.