Cyber Threat Weekly

Romanace Fraud

January 21, 2021 WMRCCU Season 2 Episode 3
Cyber Threat Weekly
Romanace Fraud
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we talk to Kloe, a West Midlands Police Fraud and Cyber Crime protect officer who talks to us about her team, support available and general fraud whilst highlighting Romance Fraud. 

In addition to speaking with Kloe, we talk to Berna who tells us about her experience when she was targeted by a Romance Fraud Scammer.  If you would like Berna to speak at an event for you please contact us first here.

 Items mentioned in this podcast are below;

For general Cyber Security;

·       National Cyber Security Centre
·       Action Fraud
·       Take Five
·       West Midlands Cyber Protect 

Please forward any Phishing emails you receive on to and any text messages on to 7726.

Our hosts today were Patrick, a Detective and Cyber Protect officer for the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit (WMRCCU) part of the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (WMROCU) and Demi the WMRCCU as an intern taking a year out from her University Studies.

Also, a member of the WMRCCU is 

To contact us please email us at to signup for our newsletter please visit

Patrick  0:04  
Hello and welcome to the cyber threat weekly. My name is Patrick and I'm a detective and cyber protection officer within the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit. I'm here today with my colleague Demi.

Demi  0:15  
Hello, I'm Demi and I work with Patrick on the Cyber Protect and Prepair side of the West Midlands Regional Cyber Crime Unit.

Patrick  0:23  
This podcast runs in conjunction with our newsletter, the Cyber Crime Sentinel. If you'd like to be added to our distribution list, please let us know by using the contact details in our show notes and we shall add you to our circulation. 

In today's episode, we're going to talk to Kloe, Kloe works within the police on our Economic Crime Unit. And is going to talk to us today about fraud. And it's difficult to talk about fraud without then speaking about the convergence of fraud and cybercrime. So, Kloe, very welcome to the podcast. Great to be speaking to you. Do you want to tell us a bit about yourself and then talk about the fraud? And I think we're gonna focus on romance fraud today, if that's right.

Kloe  1:04  
Yeah, yeah. Um, so yeah, Hi, everyone. So I'm Kloe. And I'm the economic crime unit fraud and cyber protect coordinator. And I'm also the victim care supervisor as well. I'll just briefly explain what our protect team does at the economic crime unit, and also what our victim care unit do as well. So our role as the protect team is to protect those that are at risk of fraud and cyber crime by delivering efficient, flexible and relevant crime protection advice. And we also want to try and improve support to our fraud victims, and increase fraud and cyber capabilities across policing. We also want to try and lead and support awareness campaigns to educate people on risk and protection. Our goal is to reduce the number of victims of fraud and cyber crime. And then with our victim care unit, we want to try and offer assistance and support to victims of fraud that are deemed particularly vulnerable, and then assess and assist the victim to find a way forward and to limit the impact of the fraud or the cyber crime. With our victim care team, they work quite closely with other agencies and organisations to refer the victim where we feel they would most benefit. So for example, if someone is in debt, because they've obviously paid a fraudster so much money, we can put them in contact with companies such as stepchange, and to help them manage their debt and things like that. If you're happy for me to move on, I was just going to talk around common types of fraud that we're seeing at the minute and then particularly mentioned, romance fraud.

Patrick  2:38  
Great. And one of the things that I actually didn't mention when I initially introduced Chloe, is that we're also later on, we're going to speak to somebody who's actually been subjected to a romance fraud.

Kloe  2:48  
Yeah, so we'll be speaking to one of our romance fraud victims a little bit later. Some of, the common fraud types are seen at the minute one in particular, we've seen as has increased quite a lot is the HMRC scams. So the ones that we're seeing through our reports is usually via telephone, and it will start as an automated message to begin with, and then it will tell you to press one to speak to an advisor and then you'll be put through to the fraudster book HMRC. scams can also be through email or text messages. Well, they'll even say that you owe tax and it needs to be paid immediately, otherwise that you're at risk of being arrested. Or they'll say that you're owed a tax rebate, and click on the link, for example, to input your personal and financial details. And we've seen quite a few of them at the minute. And we have had a recent case where someone's been a victim of a HMRC scam, and has actually committed suicide on the back of that. So that's obviously a really terrible story. But it just shows the impact. And you know, how bad these types of fraud affect people as well. 

And then some of the other types of fraud we've been seeing is parcel delivery scams, we've actually seen an increase of 655% on parcel delivery company phishing scams. Fraudsters are using fake messages, which are predominantly purporting to be from DPD to lure their victims in so the message states that the recipient has missed attempted deliveries of a parcel and provides instructions on how to arrange the delivery. That link will lead to a fraudulent website. And it will request the individual to input their financial details to pay for the rearrangement of a delivery. 

I'll just quickly talk about online shopping fraud, and then we'll move on to romance fraud. So at the beginning of the pandemic, we saw online shopping frauds regarding face masks, hand sanitizers and PPE equipment. Whereby goods were ordered, and they were never received. But we've also seen increase in things such as vehicle purchase scams. For example, someone will see a car or caravan for sale on a particular platform, they will contact that seller, they'll ask them to pay deposit via bank transfer. They'll pay that money and then they'll lose contact with that so called seller. And they've obviously just paid over that money via bank transfer, and more than likely they won't get them funds back because they wilingly sent the money themselves. 

And then another one is pet fraud, which we've seen a huge increase in over lockdowns.  They'll see a puppy advertised on a platform, they'll obviously contact the so called seller. And now use fake images normally pulled off Google, they'll say that they're unable to visit the puppy or kitten or whatever animal because of the lockdown. And they'll say that they'll arrange for courier to bring over the new pet. There'll be fees for that and again, they'll ask them to pay by bank transfer. And once they've done that, they'll stop all contact. So that Yeah, there's some quite common ones that we've been seeing increase over the past couple of months.

Patrick  5:48  
It's good that you're highlighting that because I think sadly, we're going to be in and out of these lockdown and restrictions for some time. So it's quite timely, that we speak about it.

Kloe  5:57  
Yeah , yeah, that's it. And we've seen many people doing online shopping with these like passive delivery scams. People are expecting emails from delivery companies, so they could soon get muddled with actual genuine ones saying there's deliveries and stuff. And that's how they catch people out because they know people are going to be online shopping more now than ever really,

Patrick  6:16  
One of the things we tell people is to be careful about being completely out the blue, they're not going to be out in the blue now are they and they are thaking advantage of that?

Kloe  6:23  
Yeah, exactly.

We're just going to move on to romance fraud now. So again, due to the whole pandemic, we have seen an increase in romance fraud within the West Midlands in 2020, we had 245 report, and there was a 1.9 million pound loss in 2020. So huge amounts of money being lost by victims. Romance fraud is based on feigns romantic intentions towards the victim going through affection and then uses that goodwill to commit fraud. We recently had a romance fraud intensification week, which is called Operation Tonic, in which we pushed a huge amount of protect messaging through social media and local communities. And we're also jointly working with a company called Scamalytics, who maintain the largest shared anti fraud database dedicated to the online dating industry. So Scamalytics, automatically remove scammers from online dating and social networks. What happens is, either we, as the police can report it, or the victim themselves can report it. They go online, and it's a form to fill out. So if you've got sufficient information, and you can send this form off, so for example, if you've got the online profile of the scammer any screenshots of conversations or phone numbers, email addresses, things like that, you can upload it to the form, send it over to Scamalytics, and they'll scan across all of their online dating websites that they've got contact with and can take them down, if anything matches. So then it obviously prevents other people from potentially falling victim to romance fraud as well. So that's a really, really good prevention tool. 

We had a romance fraud article put out in I think it was around October time, and then we've put one out last weekend as well, which is where our Fraud Victim from the West Midlands shared her story, and we'll be speaking to her as well shortly so you can gain more information on it and her particular story and how she kind of fell hook line and sinker to this type of fraud.

Patrick  8:17  
Yeah, I think that's gonna be really powerful. It's all very well for us police to deliver our messages, which are factual, but having the personal angle, I think it's going to be quite helpful to people to hear because it's just such a horrible thing to happen to somebody, isn't it because somebody, somebody's just wanting to interact with another person.

Kloe  8:36  
Some victims that we've spoken to have lost 10s of 1000s of pounds, you know, it's huge. But with these types of romance fraud, there is normally a particular type of profile that fraudster will create. So they'll normally say that they're either someone from the army. Or they're like a CEO of a company, or they work for charity and that kind of thing. Because they then kind of spin this crisis scenario that, for example, if they say they're from the army, they need money to pay for flights to get home or one of their family members is sick, and they need to pay medical bills and that kind of thing. Obviously, it's not all of the time, but you do not miss your typical type of profile with these romance fraudsters.

Patrick  9:17  
Is there any that actually stand out that you just mentioned three, but is there any that seems to be the most common?

Kloe  9:23  
I think, just from what I've seen, I think the army is the one that we predominantly see that yeah, they say that they're in the army. They're over in Afghanistan, for example, and the whole pain for flights to come home. If the victim is speaking to the so called person, in the army, they want them to come home to visit them and so they can form a better relationship and things like that. So they're more willing to pay. It's that type of story that the first spinning into them. 

Patrick  9:49  
Yeah. Yeah. 

Demi  9:51  
So I know it's called romance fraud. But do you ever see like scammers trying to befriend people rather than in a romantic way or is it a totally different type of thing? 

Kloe  9:59  
Yes, you do, you normally kind of see with that it's a bit more like financial exploitation side of things. So someone will befriend them. Again, it's still gained, like building that relationship. But they'll then use that to their advantage to obviously take money from them, but they can befriend them. Or sometimes it's even like family members and stuff can obviously defraud a person, but that Yeah, we would look at that as more of a financial exploitation.

Patrick  10:26  
Thank you very much for speaking to us today. And we're going to continue to talk to you whilst we speak to our kind volunteer who's going to give us the benefit of unfortunately, very poor experiences in this area of romance fraud.

Kloe  10:38  
Yeah, luckily, with Berna, she didn't lose any money. But I mean, she nearly did. But she'll obviously tell her story of that. Anyway, from a protect point of view, we're always looking at new ways of pushing out our protect messaging as much as possible. I mean, we create newsletters and stuff on a monthly basis. And with current trends and any campaigns that we're doing so we can obviously keep as many people updated as possible. We also run slideshow Q and A's and poll sessions, so we can answer questions and gain public opinion as well. And a lot of our protect messaging, we put on our Twitter page @DetectivesWMP. So it's good to take a look at that as well.

Patrick  11:18  
At this point, I don't have any more to ask, have you got anything you'd like to ask us or highlight to us? 

Kloe  11:24  
No, I haven't

Patrick  11:25  
Anything from you, Demi

Demi  11:27  
Just one more thing. I was wondering if Kloe had any advice for people who maybe think they might become a victim of romance fraud? Or perhaps I've got a family member or friend that they think you know, something isn't quite right there. What How can they find out more or what to look out for? 

Kloe  11:43  
Yeah, with romance fraud, the kind of protective advice that we give is always get to know the person and not the profile. If they are asking for money quite quickly, or they drop a kind of crisis situation, we say never to send money to someone that you've met online. If they're reluctant to do things such as video calls, putting off to make a call talk to you or come and visit you, then that should be a warning sign that they might not be who they say they are. And but for any kind of advice around romance fraud, there's lots of different places that you can look for protected by, as we've mentioned before, like action fraud, they've got the A to Z list of different types of fraud, romance fraud is on there. But you've also got things like little book of big scams, which goes through what romance fraud is, and then gives you top tips and warning signs and things to look out for. So that's quite helpful. And then even think Jessica booklets, they've got all different types of frauds in there, and romance frauds in there as well. So they're quite handy to read, because they're quite visual as well. So if you're that visual type of learner. 

Demi  12:48  
That's great. Thank you.

Patrick  12:49  
Thank you very much, Chloe. So now I think we'll move on and speak to Berna. 

Hello, and welcome to our podcast Berna. We have obviously spoken before we started recording, so unless you have anything else you'd like say Berna, at this point, please in your own time, tell us about your experience.

Berna  13:06  
Okay, so my experience was that I was playing an online game Scrabble. And somebody contacted me and chat that we started talking. It was all, you know, how are you and evrything, he said that he was a soldier in Afghanistan from America. And we did get flirty, we spoke for about couple of weeks. After the second week, he asked me to go on to his bank accounts and do a bank account transaction for him. I was a bit weary, but I did. I went on. And he gave me all the details. And it came up with some sort of security things that he had to give his tax code. But he didn't have his tax code, apparently. Then it just went from there that he was asking me to give him the money that was required to make the transaction that he wanted to. And you know, he was like, Oh, yes, well, I'll you give me the money, and they'll pay you so much more. And if I had the money, I probably would have given it to him. But in hindsight, that would have been stupid. And I'm glad I didn't give it to him. I mean, having looked at that, and I started, I spoke to a friend and alarm bells started going when he started asking me for the money. So that's when I got in touch with the action fraud line.

Patrick  14:30  
So how long was it that you've been communicating with him before you one before you spoke to your friend and then secondly, then made contact with action fraud?

Berna  14:41  
I've been talking to him for about two to three weeks, I think before this like transaction went on. And that's when I spoke to my friend because, you know, he was like, asking for money and I was like I felt a bit uncomfortable. Before that. I'd asked if I could send you In a care package, and he said, oh, no, we can't receive any. And that kind of brought up a few alarm bells. That was about that was in the second week that we were talking. And then it was a couple of days after I'd accessed this supposed bank account that I got in touch with action fraud. And I severed all ties with this person.

Patrick  15:23  
That's quite good to hear. You didn't actually provide any money, thankfully by the sounds of it. 

Berna  15:30  
No, no.

Patrick  15:31  
That's, that's really good. Because Kloe was mentioning earlier, which is probably disgust it with you about how many offences within the West Midlands in 2020 occurred. And the amount of money is crazy. When you think about the number of persons who are targeted and sadly scammed for money, you would not have expected the amount of money was sadly scammed from these people. I'm really pleased to hear that. After you realise, yeah, this is romance fraud. I don't know if you want to explain how you felt at the time.

Berna  16:03  
I felt I felt quite stupid. I felt like, Oh my god, how could I? How could I have fallen for that? You know, I always thought of myself as being quite computer savvy and being on the ball. I mean, I, I trained as a nurse. So I've been to University. I'm not silly, I know about computers. And yet, I fell for it. I really did fall for it. I I believed him. You know, he sent me pictures. He told me about his supposed family in America and, and how he was spending time in Afghan and told me all sorts of things that were like normal, normal day conversation that you would have, you know, I think, maybe what I would say I, I yeah, I felt I did feel very, very stupid. I felt humiliated, I felt I felt used, I just felt I was just so cross with myself.

Patrick  17:04  
See? See, when I hear that I have a few different opinions and feelings. And what I mean by that is, I can't emphasise enough. And I'm sure others have said it to you as well. Feeling stupid is not what you should be feeling. Because first of all, you're not the offender here. And you were the unfortunate injured party, or victim, depending on how people want to call it. But the one thing I would say to people who listen to this and thinks well, yeah, that would never happen to me. Or how silly was she? I would say I would ask them to ask themselves. Have they ever said to another person? Or have they ever had said to them or even said to themselves? What was I thinking sad reality is we've all been there. I've done stuff and seen people do stuff? And I've said to them, or I've said to myself, or what was I thinking? Well, unfortunately, we tend to do two different things, we tend to carry out actions based on what we know. So we decide logically, or how we feel. And it really frustrates me when people feel that way, not saying you're wrong to feel that way. And as in how you feel it's not for me to tell you but just for yourself. And for others, this is just horrible thing to have happened. And you are not the person who's done anything wrong here. And you are only human, do you feel that you got the appropriate response? Or the appropriate advice was available?

Berna  18:29  
Yeah. When I got in touch with action, fraud. I mean, initially, I was quite scared to get in touch with action fraud. And because, as I said before, I'd actually been on to this supposed bank account and put his details in. I thought, Oh, my God, I'm going to get done for money laundering, now. Don't do it. And so I was quite scared. But no, the people I spoke to, consequently, the communication I've had with Kloe as well, has just been so helpful. And, and, you know, they've advised me of websites that I can go to for help. And, and, you know, just to thankfully, I didn't lose anything apart from my pride, you know, which can take a knock or two during life, it does. But yeah, I, I'm so pleased with the support that I got from from action fraud and the police.

Patrick  19:23  
That's great and we haven't encouraged you to say that. That's a genuine.

Berna  19:28  
No, not at all. 

Patrick  19:30  
But I am really relieved to hear it.

Berna  19:32  
I think what it is as well is that it's in our nature, to be social to be kind to people, and especially when it's like in my case, it was a soldier who served. As a nurse, I worked in one of the major hospitals that looks after soldiers and you know, I have a lot of respect for them. So that kind of how can I say our inclination to believe and to want to believe and to be kind it just makes you not think at that time you're like, this is a real person, you don't think, Oh, it's somebody trying to scam me. You know, it isn't even this person.

Patrick  20:10  
Absolutely. And you hit the nail on the head. And you just said you don't think and if you don't, if you didn't feel that, and that was the point feel the way you did, that wouldn't have happened to you, just because you are already human. And that's, that's why these things happen. And for you to have worked for some time in a hospital that obviously had a lot of service personnel in there that couldn't have resonated with you anymore. 

Berna  20:33  

Patrick  20:34  
We didn't want to script this. So we haven't got any prepared questions or anything like that. So we just wanted to hear you and hear your experiences. And I just think that's going to be so valuable to people listening to this podcast, if you've got anything else you'd like to say, or even ask us a question so that it can be added to feel free? And if not, then Kloe or anybody else wants to jump in?

Berna  20:55  
Okay, I think

Kloe  20:56  
I think the only question that I would ask to you Berna is, what would be the kind of main type of advice you'd give to people who are looking for potentially love online? Is there any sort of advice that you yourself would give? 

Berna  21:10  
Yeah, I mean, okay, if you I wasn't looking for love online, but it works out that way. But I would say that get to know the person first. And when I say get to know them, I mean, really knows them. By doing that, like talking to people. I mean, it doesn't matter about distance. Nowadays, we've got zoom, we've got messenger, we've got WhatsApp, there are so many ways of actually speaking to somebody face to face, almost even if they are far away. So just make sure that you know, the person you're talking to is the genuine person that you are talking to. And that you know, you're not going to be duped. Like for example, have other ways of correspondence by post, maybe, or actually meet them or see them online. Don't just go by what they tell you, but try and be a detective almost and find out but yes, this is, you know, I am Berna and and I am talking to you today, but you know, just make sure that that is me know if it's conversations and face to face. I think that's the most important thing.

Kloe  22:22  
Yeah, yeah, definitely. I agree with that.

Berna  22:25  
I mean, also, like somebody stopped you in the streets and said, Oh, you know, can you give me a tenner? Because I need a tenner? You know? Would you give them the tenner? Or would you just say, you know, on your bike, and get lost? So it's, you've got to try and put yourself in the situation that, yes, you're talking to somebody? What would you do if you weren't online? If it wasn't on camera? Would you do that?

Patrick  22:52  
That's so true. And it's a great video that Kloe introduced me to where a guy comes up and sits next to a lady on a park bench and plays a little bit of music with this little radio next to them, and just pretends like they're interacting as if it's a switchboard, the way that goes, because you're there watching it, and it's basically like a visual version of the real thing. And not telecommunications version. It looks ridiculous. It's exactly what you've just said. I'll even put a link to that video in the show notes to highlight your point. 

Thank you so much for talking to us today Berna. I'm sure everybody listening will get a huge amount from hearing about your experience. 

That was brilliant to speak to Berna, certainly the first time we've done it on the podcast. And I just think it's so valuable for someone to hear rather than just the police say, yeah, this has happened that happened. This is bad and for these reasons, but for someone to actually say, yeah, this happened. And this is how I felt and this is how it happened. I thought that was really really good. What did you both think of that?

Demi  23:52  
Yeah, I thought it was really, really valuable. And a big thank you for Berna to actually coming on and sharing her story. It's, it takes a lot of bravery to come on and share your story. And hopefully it will empower anyone who has been, you know, victimised or has been subject to such a scam to come forward and share their story. I particularly like what she said when she was scared to go to the police because of she was worried that she would get in trouble for doing something wrong. And I think it's really important to remember that the police are there to help you know, they'll go try and incriminate you for something that you've done without knowing or something or someone has coerced in to doing, it's really important to you know, do what's right for you and go to the police even if you're not too sure and even if you think that they want to take you seriously it's so its good to just get a professional opinion and maybe you know, you could get money back or something like that.

Patrick  24:42  
Yeah, absolutely. I couldn't agree more with what you've said their Demi. thank you so much, Kloe, for introducing us. Thank you very much.

Kloe  24:50  
No, you're welcome. Like Demi said it's really valuable to get someone story to who's actually been a victim rather than us just, you know, telling people about that type of fraud and how to protect yourself from it's it's really good to actually get someone's side of the story and you know their thoughts and feelings around. 

Patrick  25:08  
Yes, absolutely and unfortunately, sometimes these things can even escalate into potentially even more serious as in, like when she fairplay to her didn't go on too long and she was quite sensible on how she dealt with it. But sadly, some people might have gone a lot further down that line and being even more embarrassed or felt even more like they've done something wrong. And then sadly, that allows them these people who'd perpetrate such offences, to then potentially go into things such as blackmail and be even more nasty about things. And by her speaking up, that will definitely empower others to one hopefully, stop and think and two, sadly, that does happen not to have that fear of the police. And to please be aware that absolutely, you have not done anything wrong. The onus of this poor behaviour lies on the person that was communicating with her. 

Kloe  26:01  
Yeah and I think it links back to like what I said in the beginning, like with our victim care team, obviously they were in contact with Berna, after she'd reported it to action fraud. And it's just knowing that, you know, we have got these teams in place to help people who have been victims of fraud, and they'll help you in in any way that they can and give you as much support as you need, really.

Patrick  26:24  
That's great. Yeah, so good to hear. I know, it's really good for police officers to know that these departments are out there. And we have the ability then to thankfully refer people like Berna who we've come into contact with, and he gets the support that she deserves. So I don't have anything else to say really, everything that we referred to in terms of websites and where to look to get more information. And, obviously report such offences. We'll put all the links in the show notes for the podcast. So anybody got anything else before we finish off?

Kloe  27:00  
No, I just want to say thanks for having me on. And then obviously extra special thanks to Berna, for coming on as well today.

Patrick  27:09  
Absolutely. Very grateful, Kloe for you coming on and for your introduction to Berna and particularly to Berna for coming on. Anything from you Demi.

Demi  27:18  
No, just a big thank you to Berna thank you for Kloe's insights. I think it's been really useful and really interesting from you know, someone like me who doesn't see that side of things.

Patrick  27:28  
Be surprised if you're on your on their Demi

Thats all we've got this week any private, public or third sector organisations or groups who believe they could benefit from a presentation from us on the Regional Cyber Crime Unit regarding cybersecurity and how to keep yourself and your organisation safe online, please get in touch. Thank you very much and goodbye for now. 

Demi  27:49