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People lose thousands in celebrity romance scams, police warn | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Scammers can spend weeks or months building “relationships” before they ask for money

Romance scams involving fake celebrity profiles, including James Martin and singer Gary Barlow, have seen people lose thousands, police have said.

A woman was cheated out of £5,000 in an online scam by a criminal posing as TV chef Mr Martin, they have warned.

The victim thought she was messaging the star on Facebook and eventually handed the money over as a “loan”.

Nottinghamshire Police said they had 23 reports of romance scams in two months and the true figure was likely higher.

Image source, PA/Take That

Image caption,

A scammer posing as singer Gary Barlow tried to blackmail one woman, police said

The force said it had 11 reports in August and 12 in September – but the true extent is unknown as many victims are too embarrassed to come forward.

Of the reported cases, officers said three were celebrity impersonator scams, also called catfishing.

Another case involved a vulnerable woman who was conned into purchasing and transferring Steam Gift Cards after believing she had been talking to Il Divo singer Urs Bühler for two months.

And a third woman was tricked into believing she was communicating with Take That frontman Gary Barlow on TikTok.

She was coerced into sending explicit images which then led to a blackmail attempt, which she refused.

While nothing more happened, officers said the episode left her upset and anxious.

‘Convincing lies’

Det Sgt Tara Clapperton, from the force’s fraud prevention team, said the number of victims emphasised how sophisticated romance scams had become.

She said: “A lot of people hear about these scams and think ‘I wouldn’t be taken in by that’.

“But these scams are clever and that’s why it’s really important people exercise vigilance communicating with others online.

“It’s not dissimilar to grooming. Offenders will groom victims and it can happen over quite a long period of time.

“They tell convincing lies and it means that while victims think they are falling in love, they’re actually falling for a scam.”

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