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Watch out for online dating scam

13 February

Those looking for love online are being urged to be vigilant of bogus dating profiles, created with the intention making money, rather than a relationship.

With Valentine’s Day upon us, Medway Council’s Trading Standards team is warning singletons of a scam which sets out to extort money from its victims.

With many online dating sites allowing free membership, the scammers take advantage of the anonymity of the internet to create a false profile to perfectly match those of the people they single out.

The love rats form a bond with victim, building a relationship and making promises to gain their trust. Once a date is planned, they make up a reason why they can’t come, such as:

• They don’t have enough money to travel to see you and need help with the flight or a visa

• They have been robbed

• They need urgent surgery

• A family member is ill

They then ask their online love match to send them money via a money transfer agent, which means the transaction will be untraceable.

Top tips

Medway Council’s Trading Standards Team recommends that anyone considering online dating should follow six simple steps to protect themselves:

1. Only use well known, reputable online dating agencies and be sure to follow their basic safety advice for online dating

2. Always be sceptical and if you are asked for any type of financial help be extremely suspicious

3. Always try and meet someone who lives locally. Some online matching engines on dating sites help find people who live close to your postcode address

4. Never give out any personal details. Do not give out your personal telephone numbers, email addresses, home address

5. Be extra careful of anyone using a PO Box address or telephone numbers which are never answered.

6. If your date only ever talks about themselves and never answers your questions it could be because they are only sending standard emails to hundreds of other people.

Awareness

Medway Council’s portfolio holder in charge of Trading Standards Cllr Jane Chitty said: “While many people may enjoy online dating sites, we must highlight that fraudsters could be behind some of the profiles, looking for money rather than love.

"These love rats emotionally exploit people to access their money, so we need to raise awareness so fewer people are caught out and hurt by this awful crime. It really is terrible that people genuinely looking for a relationship are being targeted in this way."

Anyone who suspects a scam of this nature should report it by calling 03454 040506.