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The effects of 2020 have dribbled on into 2021, and we now see ourselves back to square one in another lockdown. Lockdowns have either pushed forward relationships making people tie the knot sooner or slow things down drastically by causing relationship issues. 

The pandemic has also had a considerable effect on single people. Living alone in a lockdown and unable to see friends and family has caused many individuals to feel alone and isolated. This has brought on substantial mental health side effects.

Throughout the pandemic, the only way individuals have been able to meet new people and connect with them is through technology. However, it is always hard to consider if the person on the other end is as genuine as they hope for. 

In desperation of finding the ‘The One,' romance fraud throughout the pandemic has been on the rise. Romance fraud is when a perpetrator pretends to be interested in starting a relationship but only with the sole purpose of scamming others. In some cases, this has resulted in some losing entire life savings. 

Compared to 2019, pre covid, the UK Finance authorities have found a 20% increase in romance fraud linked to bank transfers. An estimated £68m was lost to individuals collectively in 2020.

Action Fraud has stated that the amount of money that has been unfortunately lost in romance fraud over 2019 and 2020 has significantly outweighed funds lost in online shopping. This is saying a lot as online shopping is one of the most prominent methods targeted by perpetrators when committing online fraud. 

How romance fraud is conducted 

Scammers who take part in romance fraud can be persuasive and play into all their victims' needs by using emotive language and telling the victim what they want to hear. Through the victim, scammers will ask for new electronic goods such as smartphones and laptops by making up stories prompting the victim to want to buy it for them. 

For example, after months of building a fake relationship, the scammer may pretend their phone is broken, and so they are unable to message or call the victim back, which will prompt the victim to buy them a phone. 

Some scammers are so good at winning over their victims' trust, they even give scammers access to their bank accounts. Some scammers are also asking victims to unwittingly launder money for criminal gangs, which is putting victims at risk of being prosecuted without even knowing. 

The advice

When considering a new relationship that can only live online, for now, there are some factors to consider and know. Firstly, users should not send or transfer any money. Users should also not take out a loan on another person's behalf or allow anyone to access their funds. 

Personal documentation and information should not be discussed and kept out of conversations. Any personal data that the scammer can get could result in identity fraud. 

It is always best practice to assume a picture is fake until proven otherwise. Performing a reverse image search on search engines will bring the true origins of the image to light. 

Other types of crime in lockdown 

The demand for dogs has grown increasingly over the lockdown as many long for a companion at home. This increase in demand has given birth to dog theft while their owners take them for a walk. The graph below shows the value of dogs over 2019 and 2020 and the drastic increase in value.

Criminals are capitalising on this and are stealing dogs to breed and sell on for huge amounts of profit. Not only can this be heartbreaking for families, but in some cases, dogs are also part of crucial care for some owners, helping with their fight against mental health. 

Across the UK, an estimated 500 dogs have been stolen in lockdown, out of which 200 were in London. The fact that dog theft is on the rise means an increasing number of owners are looking into getting their dog tagged. This will help locate them in the case of an emergency and help crackdown on the crime altogether. 


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