Many of us will have been using online chatrooms, social media and dating sites more frequently over the past few weeks, as we’ve been spending more time at home than usual.
Unfortunately, criminals have seen this as an opportunity to scam money from well-meaning people by pretending to be someone else, and claiming financial hardship due to the current Covid-19 situation.
The charity Victim Support has said that people’s increased confidence in using the internet to meet and talk leaves them vulnerable.
Locally, we’ve had a case where someone asked for money because the bailiffs were supposedly coming round, and in another case a lady asked for money because her grandmother had died. Both of these appear to be scams and have been reported to Action Fraud.
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Research in one region shows romance scam victims are groomed, then tricked out of an average of £47,000. For more information about this, take a look at this BBC News article.
Wrexham Trading Standards advice
Romance and dating scams online have been on the increase, especially while people feel so isolated in their lives. Unfortunately, criminals prey on this and see an opportunity to exploit those at their most vulnerable by creating a false relationship and building your trust. The damage these fake relationships can cause is massive, in terms of both your personal finances and emotional distress. Don’t be a victim:
• Get to know the person, not the profile and ask plenty of questions – don’t rush into an online relationship.
• Check the person is genuine by putting their name, profile pictures or any repeatedly used phrases and the term ‘dating scam’ into your search engine.
• Speak to your family or trusted long-term friends about it – don’t allow yourself to be isolated. Be wary of anyone who tells you not to tell others about them.
• Never send money to someone you’ve met online, no matter what reason they give or how long you’ve been speaking to them. If you believe you are a victim of a scam, contact your bank immediately and report the incident to the police.
• Don’t move the conversation off the dating site messenger until you’re confident the person is who they say they are.
• Be careful not to overshare personal information including your date of birth, address, workplace and protect your families details too. Revealing too much can lead to fraud, identity theft or personal harm.
Where to get help
Victim Support offers free, confidential advice by calling 0808 1689 111 or via live chat 24 hours a day.
If you’ve been a victim of this type of scam, you should report this to Action Fraud via their website or by calling 0300 123 2040. Action Fraud is the UK’s National Fraud and Cyber Crime Reporting Centre.
For advice on scams, contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133
Stay safe and please stay scam aware.
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