Romance fraud, via online dating apps, is on the rise in Gainsborough and the rest of Lincolnshire.
That’s according to trading standards officers, who have warned about the perils of starting a relationship online.
Sally Gray, senior trading standards officer at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “Online dating can be a great way to find romance and companionship.
“Unfortunately, it’s also a very common way for scammers to target people and, ultimately, steal money from you.”
To coincide with Valentine’s Day, the council shared the story of Tracey (not her real name), a Lincolnshire woman who fell for the charms of a scammer she met online.
Tracey said: “A man on Facebook asked me to be my friend, and I was in a bad place at the time, so I started chatting with him and he seemed friendly.”
The man, who said he lived in Canada, coaxed her away from Facebook and on to a private messaging app, where their conversations got more personal, and would be encrypted and untraceable.
They got on so well that she was persuaded to send money to help with supposed problems he was having with bills and medical issues.
However, Tracey became suspicious when he showed her a copy of a flight ticket she had sent him money to buy so that he could come over and visit her. There were ‘discrepancies’ on the ticket and, before long, she rumbled him.
“I researched him, and eventually found him out,” Tracey said. “I was devastated.
“He’d made me fall in love with him and when I found out he was a scammer, I was heartbroken. It made me feel worthless and ugly.”
Tracey is reluctant to disclose how much money she sent to the fraudster. But shockingly, across the UK, victims of romance scams lose an estimated £50 million each year.
Sally continued: "The shame and humiliation victims feel means they are often afraid to get help.
"But there are steps you can take to keep yourself safe from scammers online, and I'd urge residents to be careful."