A North Ayrshire woman has fallen victim to a £2,500 'romance scam' prompting police to warning others to be vigilant.

Police have been working with Trading Standards to make residents more aware of these types of scam so others don't find themselves in a similar situation.

Officers are also encouraging other potential victims to come forward and urged them not to be embarrassed. 

Romance fraud cases are spread across all age groups but are most common with 50 to 65-year-olds.

PC Jenner, North Ayrshire Preventions and Interventions Officer, said: “Romance fraud is largely unreported and we want more victims to come forward.

“It can have a shattering effect on people - who may be embarrassed that they’ve fallen victim to a scam and don’t want to speak it.

“Criminals can be extremely convincing and they often prey on people who are emotionally vulnerable - particularly online.

“It can be easy to get caught up with the positive attention you receive - but it’s important to stop and think if a stranger’s actions are genuine.

“There are warning signs for these scams - and one is a request for money. Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met, or even recently met, regardless of the story they tell you.

“We need to raise awareness of this type of crime and encourage people to speak to us so we can gather evidence and target offenders."

They say that romance fraud often starts from a technique known as “catfishing” – a fake online profile. 

Criminals target their victims by looking for a potential vulnerability that could be exposed – a recent divorce, widowed, or going through a difficult time. 

The criminal takes advantage of these circumstances by becoming a listening voice – complimenting, building confidence and gaining trust. 

Unlike many scams, the criminal may not ask for money from a victim for weeks - sometimes months.  At some point however, the scam is deployed, and this is usually via a request for money. 

The story can be elaborate, often with the promise of a “guaranteed windfall”, and that gained trust can convince a victim to pay the sum. 

The scam has now begun and sadly will often continue with repeated monetary transfers until the victim either realises it is a fraud, or is left with no money to give.  

Their advice to prevent and spot the signs of romance fraud include:

  • Never share or exchange personal information. Fraudsters can use this to obtain credit in your name.
  • Never share or exchange explicit photographs. Fraudsters can use this to exploit individuals.
  • Remain on the website you met them on and do not be tempted to communicate off-line. This is where scam artists operate more effectively.
  • If someone threatens you to provide money to them, don’t make any payments. Stop all communication, and keep all evidence of the communications you have had. This information is needed to help the police investigate the crime/s.
  • Never send money or your bank details to someone you’ve met online - no matter how convincing the reason they give for needing it, nor how long you’ve been speaking to them.
  • If someone asks you for money, report it immediately to the dating platform or social media site that you are using.

PC Jenner added: “If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, contact your bank and then please report this to the police on 101.

“Do not feel ashamed or embarrassed.  You are not alone.

"We will deal with your case professionally and sensitively, and we have a number of preventative measures we can provide to vastly reduce the chance of falling victim again”.