‘Romance scam’ warning issued by North’s police ahead of Valentine’s day
Posted on 9th February 2022 at 21:34
Those looking for love are told they need to be wary of scammers
There were eighty incidents of “romance scams” in the North last year — almost seven every month — including one woman who was conned out of £130,000, police have warned.
As St Valentine’s Day approaches, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is cautioning those looking for love to be wary of fraudsters acting as would-be partners.
A surge in singles looking for “friendship, companionship or love online” is expected over the coming week, as celebrations — and intense commercial targeting — gears up for the annual February 14th celebration of romance and love.
Those using dating apps or websites, in particular, to seek out “someone special” in their lives should be “on the lookout for scammers who want to take advantage” of them, a senior PSNI officer said.
Superintendent Gerard Pollock, chairman of the Scamwise NI Partnership, an umbrella group involving police, faith groups, youth organisations and charities, said the scale of “romance scams” is “heartbreaking”.
“Unfortunately, in 2021, 80 incidents of romance scams were reported to police and one female from the Greater Belfast area was deceived out of over £130,000 in April 2021,” he said.
“This is a heart-breaking statistic, but it is also a personal story of a female who has had their life ruined by someone they grew to trust and build a relationship with.”
Supt Pollock suggested the real number of so-called romance scams is much higher than the official figures show, as many go unreported because victims are “sometimes too embarrassed to report it to police.”
“Fraudsters will seek to build a relationship quickly and try to get you to chat or text away from the dating site or app you first met them on,” he said.
“This allows them to keep in contact if their profile is deleted for being fake.
“They appear very interested in you, very quickly, but will have lots of excuses for not being able to meet in person, a family emergency or a work problem that’s just come up.”
Scammers will soon ask for money to help “sort out their problems” or to help them finance a trip to meet up, according to Supt Pollock.
Typically, they will give regular reassurances that the money will be paid back.
Those being conned “will continually be reassured it’s just this one thing, just this amount and then they’ll be able to come meet you,” he said.
“However, they have no intention of doing so because they do not exist. All they wanted was your money and to get as much of it as possible.”
Supt Pollock advised a number of ways for those seeking romance online to protect themselves against fraudsters.
These include keeping conversations on the dating app or website, rather than using texts or talking on the phone, as many sites have inbuilt security and assistance, and can remove and ban fake accounts.
Those on the dating scene should carry out their own “research” on the person they are talking with, checking their social media presence to see if it matches what is on the dating site.
Key details such as name, location and family members can help identify inconsistencies in what you have been told, Supt Pollock said.
Also, he cautioned, profile pictures can be deceiving and lifted from anywhere on the internet.
“You can use various websites to check photos using a reverse image search to prove if the photo is valid.”
Reverse image search engines include Tineye.com and Google Lens.
Supt Pollock said “never ever send money to someone you haven’t met in person” if looking for friendship, companionship or love online.
“It should never start with being asked for money, and if it does it’s not a friend or relationship worth having,” he suggested.
“Romance scammers don’t care about your gender, sexuality, age or race. They target everyone.”
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