Swansea’s Trading Standards are urging people to be on their guard after receiving a spike in complaints linked to so-called ‘romance scams’ in thew city.
The department say they’ve received more than 30 calls from victims in recent months.
It’s estimated up to a million pounds in cash has been paid out by the victims to scammers, who have tricked individuals into believing they were having an online romantic relationship.
Rhys Harries, Swansea Council’s Trading Standards Team Leader, said: “We have previously received small numbers of complaints linked to romance scams. More recently, we have seen a big increase in these types of complaints in the last few months and over the Christmas period.
“In some cases, victims have handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to mystery online individuals that have gained the trust of these people and convinced them they are in a relationship.
“The information we are getting through is heart-breaking for those that have been caught out because of the large sums of money involved. It’s also very difficult to recover any of the money as in most cases, the money is being transferred to other countries.”
Trading Standards officers in the city have recently held training sessions with local banks to give them advice on what to look out for if bank customers appear to be making large financial transfers.
David Hopkins, Swansea Council’s Cabinet Member for Corporate Service and Performance, said: “The rise in complaints of this nature is very alarming, so we are urging the public to be on their guard if they are talking online to people they have not met face-to-face.
“Never assume a person that you’ve only met online is who they say they are. Scammers go to great lengths to convince you the relationship is real and manipulate you to give them money.
“Those affected that have come forward to our Trading Standards are clearly very distressed and feel foolish and embarrassed about what has happened.
“We are doing what we can to assist these people and are hoping our advice will also prevent this from happening to others.”
Warning signs it might be a romance scam
- They express strong feelings quickly and the relationship moves fast. You are made to feel special quickly.
- If you are chatting on your usual social media platform or an official dating service, they will quickly try and move the conversation offsite, for example to WhatsApp.
- Romance scammers will encourage secrecy and will influence you to only trust them. They may try to isolate you from your family and friends.
- There will always be an excuse why they can’t meet in person or show themselves on camera. They say they live overseas or somewhere remote, or their technology isn’t working.
- If you feel you are a victim of a romance scam report this to: Citizens Advice consumer helpline on 0808 223 1133 Action fraud