The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) has issued a warning on the dangers of romance scams to would-be star-crossed lovers for this year’s Valentine’s Day.
According to card payment body UK Finance, romance scams cost the UK public £12.6m in a single year, with over 1,400 cases reported. Only £0.6m of the stolen money was able to be returned to the victims.
The scams usually involve ‘catfishing’, a technique where the scammer sets up a fake online profile which seduces the target into entering a relationship. Some scammers set up elaborate networks of fake social media accounts to simulate a real person. The con artist builds trust and confidence in the mind of the victim before claiming to be experiencing a financial problem. At this point, victims are all too happy to help, leading to terrible consequences.
CTSI Chief Executive Leon Livermore said, “Romance scams are on the rise, and the financial and emotional distress they cause is unbearable. Anyone can potentially fall victim, but there are ways to steer clear.
“Always remember that profile photos can easily be stolen – don’t accept them at face value. Perform an image search on a search engine, and check if the photos appear on other websites.
“Be especially suspicious of requests for money from people you have never met in person, or have only recently met. Speak to your family or trusted long-term friends about it – don’t allow yourself to be isolated. If you believe you are a victim of a scam, contact your bank immediately and report the incident to the police.”
For advice on scams, contact Citizens Advice on 0808 223 1133, and to report fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040