TIM DREW: Timely warning about ‘romance scammers’...

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WITH St Valentine’s Day being this Saturday, now is as appropriate time as any to echo Action Fraud’s warnings about so-called romance scams.

Last year, in England and Scotland, there were 3,295 incidents of dating fraud, the majority of which were online, causing a total financial loss of £32million.

The fraudsters first meet their victims via an internet dating agency or online dating chat room.

Over a period of time, they work to develop a relationship through emails, instant messaging, texting and phone calls – these tend to be their preferred methods of communication, rather than the dating website or chat room.

They thoroughly question their victim while remaining reticent about themselves, and quickly start calling the victim by a pet name or use terms of endearment.

Once the fraudsters are confident that their victims are sufficiently attracted to them, they will seek to elicit sympathy by inventing difficulties of various kinds and ask the victim to help by sending money.

For example, they have arranged to visit the victim but need money to pay travel costs, visa costs etc., or a family member or someone else for whom they are responsible is ill and they need money for medical treatment.

Money transfer agents are often mentioned when such requests are made, because it is harder to trace money sent that way than via a bank account.

If their initial request is successful, the fraudsters will keep coming back with more reasons to send them money.

Any request for money should immediately trigger alarm bells, but such crooks are cunning, manipulative and persuasive.

Anyone who has been swindled in this way should report it to Action Fraud, cease all contact with the fraudster, report him/her to the website or chat room operation – and, of course, stop sending money.

• There is just one surgery to let people know about this week. PCSO Catherine Dines is hosting her surgery at Buddys Café, in South Farm Road, Worthing, on Thursday, February 19, midday to 1pm.