Beware: crooks pose as Valentine's Day admirers

Consumers should use the heads as well as their hearts this Valentine’s Day if they’re to resist the clutches of an increasing number of online scam artists.

Criminals posing as admirers will be lurking in online forums, dating sites and in inboxes, claiming they have “romantic intentions” towards you, says the OFT.

Their typical approach centres on tempting people with a romantic or tragic scenario, designed to tug at their heartstrings and lure them into interacting.

All of the propositions result in consumers being asked to provide money: the ‘admirer’ may claim they need the funds to travel, re-open an e-mail account or buy a gift to enable a face-to-face liaison.

The scammer will normally ask that the money be sent to them via money transfer.

According to the Office of Fair Trading, other tell-tale signs to look out for include:

* your new beloved has model good looks - probably because they are using a photo of a model,

* you can only make contact online - because the postal address is a PO Box and the phone number just rings out,

* your new friend is all me, me, me, but doesn't answer your specific questions - probably because they are sending standard emails to hundreds of people.

The scam alert comes as part of the watchdog’s month-long scams awareness campaign.

UK consumers lose an estimated £3.5 billion per year to a variety of scams which exploit low-cost, mass-marketing techniques.

Many of these scams originate overseas, making detection and prosecution more difficult.

To avoid falling for an online dating scam, officials encourage that you:

* do not give out any personal details such as your home address or bank account,

* always try and meet locally. Make use of the online search engines on dating sites which matches you with someone who lives closest to your postcode address

* be sceptical if a person who is not your usual dating type offline is showing you particular attention online.

Christine Wade, of the OFT, said: “Online dating scammers are heartless. They are happy to exploit people's emotions for their own gain.

“Never, ever send money or reveal your bank details to someone you don't know, however plausible they sound. Stop, think, and think again. Ask yourself is this person who they really say they are?”


14th February 2007

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