Don't let scammers tug your heartstrings to get at your purse strings
The Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI) and trading standards services across the country warn the public to be wary of romance fraud this Valentine's Day. With pandemic restrictions lowered or removed entirely, many expect this Valentine's Day to see a surge of star-crossed lovers seeking to make a connection compared to last February, when the country was under lockdown.
According to Action Fraud, Romance Scam incident reports surged by 40% last year, with £73.9m lost during that period, and experts expect this trend to continue in 2022.
These scams regularly involve some form of 'catfishing' - the act of luring someone into a relationship by constructing a fictional online persona.
Experts advise the public to be wary of phoney websites offering fake romantic getaways and Valentine's pop-up shop websites that don't honour purchases. Trading standards services are supporting the safety messaging across the country, and the public should look out for warnings and advice from their Local Authority.
Katherine Hart, a Lead Officer at CTSI, said: "Every year, scammers try to tug at our heartstrings to get at our purse strings, and the loneliness and isolation brought about by lockdowns means more people are looking to make romantic connections.
"There are many ways that frauds try and use the season of love to steal from us. We should all be suspicious when contacted out of the blue, whether through social media, messengers or a dating app or website.
"Always verify, and don't keep it a secret - try to talk to someone else about a potential romantic match and get an independent view. Never allow the contact to isolate you or stop communication with family and friends.
"There are also opportunistic websites offering romantic getaways that might not be what they claim to be, or pop-up Valentine's shops selling gifts that are either not honoured after purchase or exhibit some form of misselling. While an unbelievable bargain might be tempting, sometimes it may just be that - not to be believed."
For consumer advice, please call the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133
To report scams in England and Wales, contact Action Fraud. In Scotland, contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 800 9060, or if in Northern Ireland, call Consumerline on 0300 123 6262.
The public is encouraged to join Friends Against Scams, an initiative aiming to protect and prevent people from becoming scam victims by empowering them to take a stand against scams.
Chartered Trading Standards Institute (CTSI)
CTSI is a training and membership organisation that has represented the interests of the Trading Standards profession since 1881 nationally and internationally. We aim to raise the profile of the profession while working towards fairer, better informed and safer consumer and business communities. CTSI's members are engaged in delivering frontline trading standards services in local authorities and in businesses. www.tradingstandards.uk
CTSI Press Office: firstname.lastname@example.org, 01268 582240