CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council’s Trading Standards team has warned people to be careful about striking relationships up online following reports of several ‘romance scams’ in recent months.
The team has highlighted the issue as part of Scams Awareness Month, a national campaign taking place throughout July, which encourages people to report and talk about scams.
Officers say they have become aware of a number of scam victims who have been in an online relationship – in some cases for up to two years – then finding out their love interest was only after their money.
Throughout the awareness month, officers will be working with Citizens Advice to encourage people to report scams and help prevent future scams.
They will also have pop-up shops in Halifax and Barclays bank branches throughout the month to advise consumers about scams.
Robin Staines, Head of Housing and Public Protection, said: “Many UK dating websites and chat rooms operate legitimately. However many people, men and women, have lost a lot of money to romance scammers.
“Scammers quickly start to gain your trust. They make conversations personal and try to draw information from you, but never really tell you much about themselves – especially things that can be checked or verified. They tend to steer away from communicating on a legitimate dating website as they know it could be monitored. Instead they try to communicate via email, text and phone.”
Scammers can strike at any time, from cold-callers with fake investment opportunities to online adverts for products or services that don’t exist.
Reporting scammers means people can receive advice and support to try and get their money back. Victims will also be advised how they can protect themselves and loved ones in future.
Cllr Philip Hughes, Executive Board Member for Public Protection, said: “People are reluctant to talk about scams, leaving the authorities unaware of a large number of them – if our team is not aware of the scams we are unable to prevent them.
“Knowing how to spot a scam will help defend yourself and others against being scammed. For us to support and educate people we need to be informed of ongoing scams such as the recent romance scams.