Release date: 8 February 2021
Misinformation, dating scams and fake news are just some of the dangers West Sussex residents are facing on the internet.
As people spend more and more time online due to Covid-19 restrictions, West Sussex County Council is advising residents how they can protect themselves as part of Safer Internet Day 2021 (Tuesday 9 February).
The County Council’s Community Safety Team is running a series of free online sessions, particularly aimed at parents, carers and businesses, to offer advice on internet safety.
Residents are also being warned about romance fraud. This has become increasingly common during the pandemic, with people being conned into giving vast sums of money to strangers on online dating sites.
Avoid falling victim to one of these scams by remembering these simple tips:
- Don’t rush into an online relationship. Get to know the person first and ask plenty of questions.
- Analyse their profile. Put their name into a search engine along with terms like “dating scam.” Be mindful that a fraudster could have changed details linking them to a previous scam.
- Talk to your friends and family. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them. Romance fraud involves grooming a victim over a long period of time and alienating them from friends and family can be part of that process.
- Never send money or bank details to someone you have only met online. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been speaking to them or what story they give.
- Stay on the dating site messenger service. Fraudsters will often encourage their victims to use different communications channels that are often undetectable.
Duncan Crow, Cabinet Member for Fire & Rescue and Communities, said: “Increased loneliness and more time spent online has left many residents vulnerable to online scams and fraud since the start of the pandemic. Romance fraud is a particular concern and we would like to remind residents looking for love on the internet to be alert to this common scam. Always talk to friends and family about concerns and avoid rushing into a relationship with someone you haven’t met in real life. Never give money or bank details to someone online, no matter what reason they give for asking.
“Our Community Safety Team is also running a series of online sessions as part of Safer Internet Day 2021 aimed at parents and carers to help them support their children to identify harmful online behaviour, including online radicalisation, fake news and conspiracy theories that could mean a young person may be vulnerable to exploitation. We always get great comments about these events and I would urge any residents looking to learn more about this important subject to book a place.”
Safer Internet Day is an annual national campaign supporting people to learn how to stay safe online. The theme of this year’s day is #AnInternetWeTrust and will focus on issues such as fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories.
If you think you have been a victim of online fraud, contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or report fraud online.