CTSI is warning people to be on the lookout for scams this Valentine’s Day, with the easing of pandemic restrictions likely to encourage many to go online in search of romance.
According to Action Fraud, Romance Scam incident reports surged by 40% last year, with £73.9m lost during that period, and experts expect this trend to continue in 2022.
Katherine Hart, a Lead Officer at CTSI, said: “Every year, scammers try to tug at our heartstrings to get at our purse strings, and the loneliness and isolation brought about by lockdowns means more people are looking to make romantic connections.
“There are many ways that frauds try and use the season of love to steal from us. We should all be suspicious when contacted out of the blue, whether through social media, messengers or a dating app or website.”
Common scams involve some form of ‘catfishing’ – the act of luring someone into a relationship by constructing a fictional online persona. People are also being warned against phoney websites offering fake romantic getaways and Valentine’s pop-up shop websites that won’t honour purchases.
Trading standards services are supporting the safety messaging across the country, and the public should look out for warnings and advice from their local authority.
“Always verify, and don’t keep it a secret – try to talk to someone else about a potential romantic match and get an independent view,” advised Hart. “Never allow the contact to isolate you or stop communication with family and friends.
“There are also opportunistic websites offering romantic getaways that might not be what they claim to be, or pop-up Valentine’s shops selling gifts that are either not honoured after purchase or exhibit some form of mis-selling. While an unbelievable bargain might be tempting, sometimes it may just be that – not to be believed.”