The security minister has launched an ambitious £4.9 million campaign aimed at combating fraudsters ahead of Valentine’s Day, warning the public of the pervasive threat posed by romance scams.
With the slogan “Stop! Think Fraud,” the campaign seeks to educate the public about the perils of financial scams, particularly those involving new romantic partners offering investment opportunities. It is anticipated that 95% of the UK’s adult population, totaling 45 million individuals, will be exposed to the campaign through a multi-channel approach, including billboards, radio, television, and social media.
Accompanying the campaign is a dedicated website providing guidance on identifying scams, safeguarding personal finances, recovering stolen funds, and reporting fraudulent activities.
Security Minister Tom Tugendhat emphasized the devastating impact of fraud on individuals’ lives, urging people to heed the campaign’s advice to safeguard their hard-earned money. He highlighted the surge in romance scams, characterized by fraudsters manipulating victims into authorizing money transfers, resulting in emotional and financial harm.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) echoed concerns over the rise in romance scams, noting a significant increase in reported incidents, which more than doubled from £17.8 million to £31.3 million in just one year. NCA officials revealed that fraudsters often exploit victims’ vulnerability by introducing investment opportunities or cryptocurrency deals shortly after initiating a relationship.
The comprehensive anti-fraud strategy includes measures such as banning cold-calling to prevent scams, establishing a dedicated fraud squad comprising 400 investigators, and collaborating with intelligence agencies like GCHQ to track down perpetrators. Additionally, efforts are underway to crackdown on Sim farms responsible for generating millions of scam texts.
Home Secretary James Cleverly hailed the campaign as a vital tool in the fight against fraud, supplementing existing initiatives like tech firm agreements to combat online fraud and the deployment of a National Fraud Squad with expert investigators.
Fraud continues to pose a significant challenge, constituting 38% of all crime and resulting in an estimated 3.2 million offenses in the past year. Despite a 13% decrease in recorded scams, the societal cost of fraud in England and Wales stands at a staggering £6.8 billion.
To address this global scourge, Home Secretary Cleverly will host a high-level global fraud summit on March 11 and 12, bringing together interior ministers from the G7, “Five Eyes” partners, OECD representatives, and law enforcement agencies to devise collaborative strategies in combating fraud on an international scale.