Love may be in the air, but while you’re doe-eyed over a new Valentine, something more sinister may be at work here, according to Halton Borough Council Trading Standards.

 Around 200,000 people reportedly fell victim to a romance scam in the UK last year, according to figures from officers.

Valentine’s Day presents a perfect opportunity for criminals to make easy money, as they target lonely and vulnerable individuals with ever-inventive scamming techniques.

Make sure you’re aware of the risks this Valentine’s day, and prepare for any scams that may come your way with  the Chartered Trading Standards Institute’s quick guide (below). For the music lovers among you, check out the lyrics to Trading Standards’ version of the song by the Proclaimers’ “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” via the link,  

The Romance Scam: Con artists actively use dating websites to find their victims – stalking online singles hangouts for people who are ready to commit to a new relationship. They’ll declare love very quickly and try to manipulate the person into sending cash or romantic gifts, often until the victim is broke.

The Secret Admirer: A parcel arrives from a secret admirer, but the delivery driver needs to scan your credit card to prove your identity. Always be wary when someone asks for personal details at the door, and never give over your card details.

Ransomware e-Cards: Victims receive a Valentine’s e-Card or a flirty messenger bot via an email. The sender is not a person looking for love, but a robot automatically sending the same message to thousands of people. When the link is opened, your computer is flooded with viruses and dangerous software, designed to steal your identity and personal information. Always be wary when clicking links in unknown emails.

Halton Borough Council’s Executive Board Member for Trading Standards, Cllr Dave Cargill, said: “Emotions run high this time of year, but be on your guard if somebody you have only just ‘met’ declares undying love for you or asks you for money, even if they say the need it so that they can travel to meet you. Stop and think; being cautious now can save you months of heartache down the line.W no close of speech marks”

If you think you, or someone close to you, has been caught out by a scam please contact one of our specialist officers, Linda or Sue on 0151 511 8785 or 0151 511 8775, who are already working with people in Halton who have lost thousands of pounds to scams.