FRAUD Squad police are warning the public to guard their hearts and more importantly, their money, from online crooks who search the internet for lonely people to prey on.
Speaking at a media conference at Police Administration Building in Port of Spain, on Friday, Acting Insp Cornelius Samuel said while there have been no reports of romance scams in TT, it is a common tactic used by criminals in other parts of the world and it won't hurt if the public is aware of this type of online fraud and to be alert.
He said that as reliance on online communications has increased during the covid19 pandemic and its ensuing restrictions on physical, social interactions, fraudsters are finding newer and more creative means of targeting their victims, which include soliciting money from people seeking online relationships.
Referring to a recent incident where police arrested 48-year-old Nigerian Charleson Obasoanya for allegedly defrauding an 82-year-old, Port-of-Spain woman of $128,000 by claiming to be a long lost relative, Samuel said internet users should be wary of strangers who claim to want relationships.
"Romance or friendship scams is a type of fraud that involves the exploitation of people who are seeking a romantic partner or a companion through online dating sites, an application or social media in general.
He said as more people use online platforms while stay-at-home measures remain in place, the police are anticipating lonely Trinis to fall prey to romance scams and as such, he called on the public to do their part in securing their information online.
Samuel said users should use Google's image search feature to verify whether their online partner's profile pictures are real or stock photos.
Samuel said when people learn they have been swindled they are often too embarrassed to come forward and make a report to police which makes the frequency of such crimes difficult to record.