Police investigating spate of Lapland online romance scams

The criminals pretend to be a doctor, or soldier serving in the Middle East and gain the confidence of their victims before asking for money.

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File image of computer, cyber / Credit: iStock

Police in Lapland are investigating a spate of romance scams after several incidents were reporting during a short period of time.

In the latest incident, someone claiming to be an American soldier serving in the Middle East had tricked money from a local woman he’d cultivated a romantic relationship with online.

According to officers the frauds have been worth tens of thousands of euros in Lapland alone, with the national figure likely to be much higher still.

Detective Chief Inspector Jarno Auvinen from Lapland Police says a typical fraud takes place on the internet or via messaging apps. The criminals start the online affair and at some point request money to come and visit.

“An unfamiliar person comes on the internet for the purposes of building confidence and then a romantic relationship between him and the victim. Later on, as the conversation progresses and the idea of a personal meeting comes up, the talk turns to money” he tells News Now Finland.

“For example, in the latest incident, the affair had continued about three months. That’s quite a long-lasting process. The confidence won’t build up in a day or two. When we talk about such a long period it kind of builds a confidence and some kind of emotional tie as well” Auvinen explains.

File picture of Helsinki Police vehicle / Credit: News Now Finland

Police say the targets are often middle-age or older women.

“I have not seen a case where the scam was aimed at a young person.”

“Sometimes the scammer might be [pretending to be] a soldier, sometimes a doctor, but many times recently the person has presented themselves as serving in Afghanistan or elsewhere. Previously the person introduced himself as a US soldier serving in the Middle East.”

These sort of romance scams were more common in other parts of Finland, but now seem to have found their way north of the Arctic Circle as well.

Police suspect the scams are related to international criminal activity because money has been transferred through several foreign banks.

Previously, the romance scams have more frequently occurred elsewhere the country but now it seems it has reached the northers parts as well.

Police suspect the scams are related to international crime because money has been transferred through several foreign banks.