By Earyel Bowleg
Tribune Staff Reporter
POLICE are warning the public about an online romance scam where victims are being deceived and eventually defrauded of thousands of dollars.
Officer-in-charge of Financial Crime Investigations Chief Superintendent Matthew Edgecombe told The Tribune there are some cases where people were defrauded of $10,000 or $25,000 over a period of time.
He added that officials had so far seen a lot of women fall victim to this type of crime.
“It’s nothing new, but basically over the pandemic I should say we saw an increase in persons coming forward and making them aware of these matters. We notice this has been happening now for some time,” Chief Supt Edgecombe said.
“Now with our international partners we are able to do our best to stop this from happening but sometimes it’s very hard. Once your money is gone, it is gone sometimes.”
Police said in a release that the scam involves people being contacted via social media by people they don’t know, but engage in conversations with them.
Police could not say at this time how many victims were targeted/chosen, according to the press statement.
However, they noted it seemed single, divorced, widowed, or those in search of some form of companionship appeared to be ideal victims.
“After numerous conversations, these situations can ultimately lead to a relationship where the victims develop feelings for the other person. Sadly though, the perpetrators are using false identities and stolen photos to pretend to be someone else (military personnel, etc.). Eventually the fraudster would ask for assistance with funding for various reasons, to which the victim complies,” the release explained.
“In one instance, the fraudster pretended to be military personnel stationed overseas and claimed that he needed money sent to his base to have him released. The money is usually sent using local money transfer agencies to various foreign countries. The fraudsters can be very smooth and convincing in the manner they communicate with the victims and gain their trust.
“In some instances, persons in these positions are distracted by their desire for happiness and companionship and are unable to recognise that they are being scammed. In certain cases, there were which can further justify to a victim that (their) actions were for a worthy cause.”
Police encouraged the public to be cautious when talking to people over social media, particularly those unknown to the individual.
Furthermore, one should be very suspicious of anyone asking for money to be sent to them, especially when the destination is a foreign country. People are also encouraged to report “any suspicious online activity to the police so that the matter can be properly investigated."
In addition, CSP Edgecombe urged the public to be careful about what they put online.
He warned: “We as social media users, we give so much information about ourselves – who we are, where we live, where we work and they use that to their advantage.”
“We even say sometimes I’m a divorcee, my husband just died... they know how to prey on you.”
“To become involved in some international money scam or money laundering scam –that ain’t good.”