Hundreds of innocent victims across Thames Valley have reported that they have been scammed out of £3.2 million of money, according to recent figures.

With more and more people turning to dating apps such as Bumble, Tinder and Hinge police and Action Fraud are cautioning users to beware of vulnerabilities when online.

In 2022, Thames Valley was the fourth highest police area in the UK for the number of scams reported and the amount lost.

This is behind Greater London, Avon and Somerset and West Yorkshire but above Sussex in the top five.

Although this may seem like an eye-watering number, reports for 2022 have actually decreased by 11% and financial loss by 9.5%. This could be for a variety of different reasons including stricter measures on dating apps.

Thames Valley Police have said that they have done a lot of work to encourage fraud victims to report offences. This includes developing the ‘Guide to staying safe from romance fraud’ which is now used nationally, alongside the Crimestoppers campaign.

A Thames Valley Police spokesperson said: “All of this work has likely led to an increase in reporting which suggests those impacted by romance fraud feel more comfortable coming forward. This does not necessarily equate to an increase in the number of crimes, but may explain an increase in reports.

“We understand victims often feel embarrassed to report such crimes to us but we would like to reassure them that their reports will be treated seriously and professionally. We will investigate them thoroughly and endeavour to bring offenders to justice.

“Further information and support can be found by searching for ‘romance fraud’ on the Thames Valley Police website.”

This research was conducted by the team at information security platform Hicomply using a supported FOI request response from Action Fraud.

Reported figures compare the number of dating scams and the areas most affected in 2022, comparing impact with 2021 data.

Throughout the UK in 2022, 7,900 cases of romance fraud were reported to Action Fraud, with victims losing a reported £88m to scammers

Dr. Meera Sarma, CEO at cybersecurity solutions provider Cystel, shared insights on what the future of scams leveraging single Brits’ vulnerabilities might look like: “While on the surface the overall percentage of dating scams appear to be on a downward trend, the depth of crimes – use of dating platforms to spread disinformation, use of AI to create deepfakes and a trail of deep webs on social media to create a false sense of trust – is on the rise.  

“Scammers are turning to the dark web for ready-to-use tools, often selling information from the scams back to hackers on the dark web. In the past, users were advised to look to look for digital footprints of an individual for confirmation of authenticity, however, this is no longer sufficient.

“As we move towards a world of DNA matched dating and dating in AR/VR platforms, financial security, identity and privacy concerns are likely to remain.” 

Surprisingly, the most targeted dating apps for fraudsters are Bumble and Hinge where reports have risen over the last two years.