Nottinghamshire Police have issued a warning to individuals engaged in online dating, highlighting the risks associated with fake celebrity profiles. This advisory comes in the wake of a distressing incident where a woman lost approximately £5,000 to a romance fraudster who posed as TV chef James Martin.
The police force disclosed that this type of scam is part of a concerning trend where fraudsters assume the identities of celebrities on dating platforms to entice unsuspecting fans. Reports of romance fraud have seen a significant rise in recent years, but the true scale of the issue remains obscured as many victims are reluctant to come forward.
Nottinghamshire Police revealed that they received 12 reports of such cases in the last month, with an additional 11 cases reported in August. Notably, three of these cases involved celebrity impersonators who created bogus profiles to “catfish” their victims into parting with their money.
In one distressing instance, the woman who fell victim to the James Martin impersonator initially ignored three Facebook messages before succumbing to the scammer’s convincing portrayal of the ITV star. Ultimately, the fraudster manipulated her into lending money, which was never returned.
Another case involved a vulnerable woman who, after believing she had been conversing with Il Divo singer Urs Buhler for two months, was persuaded to purchase and transfer Steam Gift Cards.
In a third scenario, a woman was deceived into sending explicit images to a romance fraudster whom she believed to be Take That frontman Gary Barlow. The scammer then threatened to share these images, originally sent via TikTok, with her friends and family.
Detective Sergeant Tara Clapperton, from the force’s fraud prevention team, explained that scammers typically target their victims on dating apps or social media. However, they often steer the conversation to other platforms such as WhatsApp. These imposters frequently claim to reside or work abroad as an excuse for not meeting in person. They also avoid turning on their cameras during calls.
Over time, these scammers weave elaborate stories about family issues, legal problems, business woes, or medical bills, gradually convincing victims to send increasing sums of money.
Clapperton urged caution when communicating with others online and offered advice to avoid falling victim to romance fraud. She emphasized the importance of remaining vigilant and never sending money to individuals who never met in person, regardless of the reasons or amounts discussed. Seeking input from real-life friends or family members can help assess the legitimacy of online relationships.