Police are urging people to be vigilant when using online dating sites after a woman was conned out of tens of thousands of pounds.
The woman, who is in her fifties, was using Match.com when she struck up an online relationship with someone posing as a local man.
After a number of months, they made plans to meet. However, these were cancelled at the last minute as the man said he was going to work abroad and that they would meet up on their return.
The man then convinced the victim that he had lost access to his finances while abroad, and that he needed help paying for accommodation.
He also convinced the victim, from Bishop Auckland, that he had found some expensive jewellery and other valuable items, which he wanted to send to the UK, again convincing her to deposit large sums of cash.
It was then that police were alerted to the scam.
Detective Constable Nichola Gaines, from Durham Constablary, said: “Scammers will often create fake social media accounts to build up trust and a rapport with their victims.
“They will also often profess strong emotions towards their victims in a relatively short period of time before asking for money to be sent, usually via systems like Western Union, MoneyGram or to international bank accounts. A lot of these scammers operate outside of the UK.
“These scams can have a devastating impact on victims both emotionally and financially.
“I would urge anyone who feels they have been victim of a similar crime should call police on 101 and report the fraud online at actionfraud.police.uk or over the phone on 0300 123 2040.”
To protect yourself from falling victim to a similar scam, take the following steps:
• Don’t rush into an online relationship;
• Analyse their profile – check their photos and details. Put them into a search engine with the phrase ‘dating scam’ and see if there are any reports about them;
• Talk to your friends and family, let them know what you’re doing;
• Never send money to someone you have not met;
• Do not disclose any bank account or credit card details to someone you do not know;
• Be cautious when sharing personal information with people online as scammers are known to blackmail their targets;
• Be aware of what information you share on social media as scammers can use this information to target you.