Police are warning the lonely and vulnerable about wave of cruel romance scams.
Fraudsters are targeting people they meet on online dating sites.
One North Wales woman was left distraught after discovering the man she had built on an online relationship with was a conman.
The 60-year-old victim was swindled out of almost £60,000 of her money over a period of three years.
Another 68-year-old victim fell victim to the romance scam three times – most recently she was conned out of £1,400.
She believed she was sending money to a solicitor, to help with payments on his property in France, but the photos weren’t real and the “solicitor’ turned out to be a fitness instructor living in London.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones is setting up a new Economic Crime Unit to crack down on the heartless fraudsters.
He has also set up funding to pay for a dedicated support officer to support the victims of these cruel scams.
Cadi Jones, 24, is based at the Victim Help centre in St Asaph but will serve the whole of North Wales.
The St Asaph centre brings together the support services of North Wales Police, the Witness Care Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the former Victim Support organisation so each victim will receive a response tailored explicitly to the situation.
Cadi said: “Being a victim of fraud can have a traumatic impact and a lot of people say that they feel embarrassed or ashamed of what has happened.
“The problem is that these fraudsters are very plausible and convincing to the point where they persuade the victims to think they can trust them.
“If you’ve been the victim of a scam once you are more likely to be targeted again, piling on the misery and heartbreak.
“There is an increase in romance scams, and a lot of this happens on dating websites, and the fraudsters will often ask the victim to talk on email or Whatsapp, so there isn’t the protection of the dating website then.
“If people are looking for romance, they are often lonely as well. Some may have lost their partners, so it’s a very cruel thing to do. It can be devastating, financially and emotionally.”
The police boss said: “Once somebody has been defrauded, especially if they’re vulnerable, there is a tendency for them to be revictimized time and time again because their details are available.
“The increase in the number of fraud cases is a particular worry because these swindlers are exploiting vulnerable people, not just in North Wales.
“Vulnerable people, very often elderly, are being targeted specifically, and that is despicable.
“It’s the worst kind of crime because the victims have worked hard all their lives and saved all their money only to see it disappear after sometimes a couple of phone calls.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and that’s the message that needs to go out.”