Monthly Fraud Update from Southend City Council

January 3, 2024

For the information of everyone to enable them to protect themselves, their families and the Council against the most current threats from fraud and cybercrime.

While a lot of fraud is now happening online as it is easier, cheaper, you can reach a lot of people quickly, and there is less chance of getting caught, please remember that fraud can happen in person, right on your doorstep. Treat unsolicited callers to your door in the same way I hope you are treating unsolicited telephone calls: a quick ‘no thank you’ and shut the door.

Scam of the month: Romance fraud

The National Fraud Intelligence Bureau received over 8,000 reports of romance fraud last year, amounting to over £92million lost, with an average loss of £11,500 per victim.

Romance fraud involves people who are not who they say they are building relationships with people they meet online, frequently using dating apps as a starting point. They go to great lengths to gain trust and convince people they are in a genuine relationship, often over a length of time. They will manipulate, persuade and exploit their victims so that when they start to ask for money, it does not raise alarm bells. They use emotional situations to request money such as medical care or travel costs.

Signs that someone is involved in a romance scam include being secretive about the relationship and providing excuses why they do use video calling, they may become hostile when challenged, they may express strong feelings for someone they have only just met, they have sent, or have sent, money to someone they have never met in person and they may even take out loans to send money.

These scammers are completely anonymous; they use fake photos, personal details and history, and are not living where they say they are. They often create several social media accounts with the same details to enhance the impression that they are genuine.

If you meet someone online, you need to have a degree of suspicion and no matter how much you feel that you trust them, if you have not met them in person do not:

1.Send them money

2.Alow them to access your bank account

3.Transfer money on their behalf

4.Take a loan out for them

5.Provide copies of any personal documents such as passports

6.Invest your own money on their behalf or on their advice

7.Purchase and send the codes on gift cards from Amazon or iTunes

8.Agree to receive and/or send parcels on their behalf

9.Romance fraud is a horrible crime that leaves the victims shamed and humiliated. If you have been a victim of this, you are not alone. Contact your bank immediately and report it to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via their website.

Gift cards

Essex police have highlighted that gift cards are popular with criminals as they are more difficult to trace than bank transfers. They may impersonate organisations such as HMRC or DVLA and invent a time-critical reason that they need the gift card.

This can include claims that you need to pay a tax, fine, or a fee to win a prize. Once you have bought the card and sent the voucher code to the fraudster, the money on the card is either spent straight away or the card is sold onto other criminals.

Take a moment to stop and think before spending your money. Contact your bank if you think you might have been scammed.


While many scam emails are becoming easier to spot as people get wiser to phishing and what it looks like, there are many that are created to look as genuine as possible. A popular one will tell you that your subscription is about to expire or set up to renew. Always stop and check that it is not a fake. Never click on links but go to the website directly using your browser or use the phone number on a bill or previous contract.

The criminals sending these emails want your personal data and to steal your money.

Crime prevention: Don't tell everyone what you've got

Essex police are warning that burglars target homes they think contain valuables. They advise that you keep the packaging from new devices or designer clothes.

Anything you leave by the bins or out the front could be a great advert for what you have inside.

If you see a crime in action call 999.

If you or someone you know is vulnerable and has been a victim of fraud, please call Essex Police on 101.

Report fraud or attempted fraud by contacting Action Fraud at or call 0300 123 2040.


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