Three people have been arrested in dawn raids in Gorton this morning (Tuesday) as part of an investigation into 21 cases of dating app fraud across the region.
Two men aged 35 and 41 and one woman aged 35 were arrested on suspicion of fraud offences.
The warrants were executed at three addresses across Gorton as part of Greater Manchester Police's Operation Sunbird, formed by the force's Specialist Fraud Investigation Unit.
The fraud crimes were committed between October 2018 and March 2020 across Greater Manchester, where suspects posed as women on dating and messaging apps to coax people into paying out large sums of money into a bank account.
Once the victim has made one payment, the suspect would message then demand more money and threaten them with violence.
Most victims reported the offence to the police, at which point there was no further contact from the suspects.
Although the victims were not approached in person, sums ranging from £17,000 to £20,000 were paid out - with the average loss being £3,000.
Detective Sergeant Ian Thomas, of GMP’s Specialist Fraud Investigation Unit, said: "I would like to thank our officers involved in Operation Sunbird for making these arrests today despite the challenging climate we’re all facing.
"We now have a total of three people in custody due to the excellent work of our officers at GMP’s Specialist Fraud Investigation Unit.
"We’d urge anyone who thinks they have been a victim of this type of crime to report any suspicious messages or threats to police.
"Our officers are fully committed to ensuring the safety of people online across Greater Manchester and would advise residents to follow our guidance when using dating applications."
Anyone with information should contact police on 0161 856 0074, Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or via www.actionfraud.police.uk, or the independent charity Crimstoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
Police have also issued some guidance on online messaging and advice to prevent you from becoming a fraud victim.
- If you become a victim of romance fraud report it immediately to Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or www.actionfraud.police.uk and the dating site where you met. This could stop the person doing it to someone else.
- Trust your instincts - if you think something feels wrong, it probably is.
- Choose a site that will protect your anonymity until you choose to reveal personal information and that will enforce its policies against inappropriate use
- Do not post personal information, such as phone numbers, on dating sites.
- Never send money or give credit card or online account details to anyone you don’t know and trust.
- Wait until you feel comfortable with an individual before telling them things like your phone number, place of work or address.
- Be extremely wary about removing clothes or doing other things in front of your webcam that could be used against you - even if you think you know the other party.
- Use a dating site that offers the ability to email prospective dates using a service that conceals both parties’ true email addresses.
- Set up a separate email account that does not use your real name.
- Pick a user name that does not include any personal information. For example, “joe_glasgow” or “jane_liverpool” would be bad choices.