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Conmen will also cite medical-related reasons for needing money – such as a sudden need for surgery, or a family member urgently requiring hospital treatment.

Scammers may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck, such as a failed business or a mugging in the street.

Conmen often consider older women to be ideal targets, because they are usually wealthier and more vulnerable than their younger counterparts.

For example, just a few months ago, newspapers reported the story of 61-year-old retired British teacher, Judith Stillwell, who handed her Kenyan husband £25,000 from her savings before discovering he was duping more than 40 “lovers” across the world.“Dating fraudsters are heartless criminals who mostly operate online to manipulate their victims into believing they’ve established a strong emotional bond,” says detective superintendent Pete O’Doherty at the City of London Police.

One of the most common explanations is that the “suitor” wants to visit his “lover” in the UK, but needs cash to pay the air fare.

In some cases, the fraudster may claim to need cash to replace a plane ticket which has been stolen or because his credit card is at its limit.

You should also tell family and friends where you are going.

If you think you are being targeted – or have been a victim of dating fraud – you should report it to Action Fraud, and also to the website or chatroom operator.

Read our article on 'The trust cost of finding love' for the low-down on online dating sites.

Separate figures published at the end of October 2015 showed that in just 12 months, 3,543 people reported that they had been a victim of dating fraud to Action Fraud, with a total financial loss of £33,650,491. Romance scams take many different forms, but often the most heart-wrenching cases involve singletons meeting people through internet chatrooms or dating sites.

In fact, NFIB findings show that 85% of dating scams in 2014 stemmed from online dating sites or forums.“Conmen invest a significant amount of time and effort into building a relationship with someone, knowing they can potentially reap a bigger reward by scamming that person out of a lot of money,” says Tony Neate from Get Safe Online.

But while the number of dating sites has rocketed, so too have the incidences of fraud.

Recent figures from the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) reveal online dating fraud is on the rise, with a 33% increase in fraud cases in 2014, compared to 2013.

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