The scammers getting rich on lockdown loneliness

Dating fraudsters stole nearly £100m from lonely people in Britain last year. Lizzie Cernik reports on how these increasingly sophisticated scams work

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Romance scams are about as old as the pursuit of love itself, but pandemic isolation, the rise of online dating, and a host of digital tools available to fraudsters have contributed to a rise in recorded incidents of fraud, the reporter Lizzie Cernik tells Hannah Moore.

According to the UK’s cybercrime and fraud reporting centre, Action Fraud, 8,863 cases were reported to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau between November 2020 and October 2021, up from 6,968 the year before. Some of the cases involved simple acts of deception; others involved teams of scammers setting up phoney websites and staging fake video calls to deceive their targets.

Carol Goodall, 62, met her former partner Gary on a dating website after her divorce. The relationship progressed quickly. Within a few months they were talking about getting married, and had decided to pool their resources to buy a house together. Carol, who worked long hours, entrusted Gary with selling her home and putting the funds into a shared account. But after the property sold for more than £200,000, Carol discovered Gary was not who he claimed to be.

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