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Don’t be scammed this Valentine’s Day

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The Public Protection Partnership (PPP) and Citizens Advice are raising awareness of online romance scams this Valentine’s Day.

A typical scam is a fake online profile. Clues to look for include:

  • a picture that doesn’t match their profile description
  • looking for a partner much older than them
  • communicating in a way that isn’t reflective of the educational achievements listed in their profile
  • someone looking for wide and varied relationships

The scammer will typically express strong emotions for the victim in a short period of time, suggesting contact is moved away from a website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging. The scammer will also go to great lengths to gain the victim’s interest and trust, showering them with loving words, sharing personal information and sending gifts.

Once the scammer has gained their victim’s trust they will ask for money, gifts and bank and credit card details. Typically, the scammer will claim that they need money for:

  • an ill relative
  • an operation
  • they have been a victim of crime and need cash to tide them over
  • a business failure
  • to visit the victim

Cllr Iain McCracken, Chairman of the Joint Public Protection Committee, explained:

“Valentine’s Day is a good opportunity to raise awareness and take a stand against the crimes and predatory practices which affect thousands of people. Scammers are increasingly taking advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media, by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to persuade their victim to provide money, gifts or personal details, often at great cost, both financial and emotional, to their victims.”

Lynn Collie, Research and Campaigns Coordinator, Citizens Advice West Berkshire, said:

“Citizens Advice encourages members of the public who have been a victim of a romance scam, or are concerned about someone you feel may be a victim of a scam, especially a vulnerable person, to contact Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06 or the PPP Trading Standards service on 01635 519930 or at tsadvice@westberks.gov.uk.”