The Police Service of Northern Ireland is warning people to be vigilant against romance scams in the lead up to Valentine’s Day. According to the Chair of the ScamwiseNI Partnership, Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock, romance scams are underreported due to embarrassment, but he wants people to know that help is always available.
Nationally, approximately £96 million is lost each year due to romance scams. In Northern Ireland, losses have ranged from hundreds to over a hundred thousand pounds. One of the most significant losses in Northern Ireland last year was £112,000, where a woman was scammed through a dating app. She was led to believe that she had formed a genuine relationship and was encouraged to invest in cryptocurrency, only to be left emotionally and financially devastated when the investment failed to materialize.
Scammers often seek to quickly build a relationship and then request money, using charm and promises to repay. They often provide excuses for not meeting in person and ask for money to solve problems or invest in travel or opportunities. Unfortunately, these scammers have no intention of repaying the money and leave their victims feeling hurt and swindled.
Chief Superintendent Pollock believes that the majority of people using online dating and social media are genuine, but it is important to be aware of how to protect oneself from scams. He said that these scams can occur at any time of the year and scammers don’t discriminate based on gender, sexuality, age, or race. However, people aged between 30-60 and women are slightly more likely to lose money.
To protect yourself from romance scams, it is recommended to keep communication on the dating website or app you are using, carry out your own research on the person, and check their social media presence for inconsistencies. You can also use reverse image searches to verify the validity of profile pictures. Most importantly, never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
For more information and advice, visit the ScamwiseNI website at www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni. You can also reach out to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk or call 0300 123 2040. If you suspect a scam, contact police on the non-emergency number 101.
In conclusion, Chief Superintendent Gerard Pollock reminds everyone that scammers do not discriminate and target everyone. Stay safe and protect yourself from romance scams by following the recommended guidelines.