Single women looking for love are being warned of two scams which have been used to target people in the South West.
Sgt Dave Anning said police were concerned at the increasing number of cases across the region and wanted to warn others to avoid them at all costs.
The first is the ‘Friends in Trouble’ scan where victim will receive an e-mail from a friend claiming they are in trouble.
They claim to be abroad, all their money has been stolen and they are asking for your help
Sgt Anning said: “Imagine your friend is called John – his computer has been hacked. The hacker has sent an e-mail to everyone on John’s list of contacts, not just you.
“The e-mail will be very convincing, with details about you and even other friends – all these details have been found on the computer.
“The hacker will have diverted John’s email account, so any e-mails you send will go to the con artist, not John. They may have changed John’s email account in a subtle way such as changing ‘.co.uk’ for ‘.com’, so John@Fancymail.co.uk would become John@fancymail.com.
“Our golden rule on this scam is to insist on speaking on the phone to your friend and ignore the convincing excuses why they can’t get to a phone.
“If they can send an e-mail they can ring you.”
The other scam police are warning of involve dating sites.
Sgt Anning said: “Unfortunately all sites include people who want your money, not your company.
“Con artists target certain types of people. In the UK they target middle-aged women who are divorced because they probably have a house and are alone.
“Identifying these people used to be tricky – then along came dating sites where people actually state that they are middle aged divorced British women.
“This is a particularly clever scam because the con artist spends months and sometimes even a year doing nothing more than building up a ‘relationship’.
“They may even come and meet you, despite the fact they live abroad. Eventually they will ask you for some money to help with some small emergency. Gradually the requests for money get bigger, at the same time promises of meeting and marrying are made.
“Some people end up selling their homes to finance these ‘relationships’, not realising until too late that they are actually exchanging email with a total stranger sitting in an office with a dozen other people doing the same thing.
“One extra word of warning – if you are asked to ‘pass on money’ you are becoming involved in money laundering. This is a criminal offence and guess who is the only person involved who can be prosecuted? You – because you are in the UK and they are usually in a foreign country which they have chosen because they can’t be extradited.
“The golden rule is never send anyone money unless you really know them.
“You don’t really know someone unless you have met them a number of times, have been to their home and know their friends and family.
“Exchanging texts and e-mails does not mean you know someone. Never give anyone your bank details. Do not allow anyone to transfer money through you, whether using your bank, a post office or any other means. You’re not helping a ‘friend’, you’re funding organised crime and terrorism.”