Dozens of people in a Welsh city have been tricked into paying thousands of pounds as part of ‘romance scams’ where they are enticed into what they believe are genuine relationships which start online. Trading Standards officers in Swansea have received more than 30 calls from victims in the past few months alone, and it’s estimated that up to a million pounds in cash has been paid out to scammers.
Following the recent spate of incidents, residents in the city and its surrounding areas are being urged to remain vigilant if anyone they don’t know tries to speak to them online, and especially if the conversation concerns the handing over of money. According to Trading Standards, warning signs that a relationship could in fact be a romance scam include if the person makes their feelings known very quickly and if they attempt to move the conversation off social media or an official dating site.
In addition, romance scammers will try to turn people against their own friends and family and will attempt to influence your decision-making, and there is often an excuse as to why they cannot meet up in person or at least show their faces on camera. You can get more Swansea news and other story updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletters here.
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Rhys Harries, Swansea Council’s Trading Standards team leader, said: “We have previously received small numbers of complaints linked to romance scams. More recently, we have seen a big increase in these types of complaints in the last few months and over the Christmas period. In some cases, victims have handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to mystery online individuals that have gained the trust of these people and convinced them they are in a relationship. The information we are getting through is heartbreaking for those that have been caught out because of the large sums of money involved. It’s also very difficult to recover any of the money as in most cases, the money is being transferred to other countries.”
Trading Standards officers in Swansea have recently held training sessions with local banks to give them advice on what to look out for if bank customers appear to be making large financial transfers. Council cabinet member David Hopkins, said: “The rise in complaints of this nature is very alarming, so we are urging the public to be on their guard if they are talking online to people they have not met face-to-face.
“Never assume a person that you’ve only met online is who they say they are. Scammers go to great lengths to convince you the relationship is real and manipulate you to give them money. Those affected that have come forward to our Trading Standards are clearly very distressed and feel foolish and embarrassed about what has happened. We are doing what we can to assist these people and are hoping our advice will also prevent this from happening to others.”
If you feel you are a victim of a romance scam you should report it to Citizens Advice by calling their consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133.
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