Police are reminding those looking for love online this Valentine’s Day how to stay safe.

While most online users are seeking romance the online dating world opens up the potential for criminals to go online and con people out of their savings.

Some use online dating sites as means to trick users.

Det Chief Insp Vanessa Smith of the West Yorkshire Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Most people who use online dating sites are genuine and want a relationship.

“That doesn’t mean, however, that there aren’t those looking to use take advantage of people. There are cases across the country, including in West Yorkshire, where victims have been conned out of a lot of money.

“Often this is their life savings. When online it is easy to pretend to be someone else and a trick that the criminals often use is to pretend to be someone else to encourage people to send them money.

“So we are urging people looking for love on dating sites – particularly with today being Valentine’s Day - to be sure that the person they are talking to is in fact the person who they say they are.”

So how can you stay safe online dating?

Pick a reputable dating website and don’t move the conversation off the site’s messaging service until you’re confident the person is who they say they are.

Get to know the person, not the profile. Ask plenty of questions – don’t rush into an online relationship. This may also help you avoid becoming a victim of a false sexual relationship.

Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ or ‘romance scam’ into your search engine.

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Talk to your friends and family about your dating choices. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them. Tell someone what you’re doing – and where – before meeting an online suitor in person for the first time.

Never send money or your bank details to someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them. If you’re defrauded your bank will normally do its best to recover your money, but is not responsible for refunding it if they don’t manage to do so.

Don’t give away too many personal details. Revealing your full name, date of birth, home address or workplace could lead to identity theft or even personal harm.

If you become a victim of romance fraud report it immediately to the dating site where you met the perpetrator and to Action Fraud on www.actionfraud.police.uk or on 0300 123 2040. This makes it easier to take action and protect other innocent people, even though you may feel embarrassed to tell anybody.

For the full picture on safe online dating, visit www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-yourself/online-dating/