The Jersey Fraud Prevention Forum is warning islanders about romance fraud and catfishing scams after local residents have reported losing more than £350,000 so far this year. Thankfully that wasn’t one scam, but an accumulation of multiple attacks.

Catfishing is the act of pretending to be someone you are not online, in order to lure someone you’ve never met into a relationship. It includes people that make fake profiles and people posing at others. It was the subject of the 2010 documentary movie Catfish, and the American TV show of the same name. Here are the 7 creepiest moment from that series, which is an insight into the world of people that make things up online.

In most of the cases reported to the States of Jersey Police, islanders are being targeted online via dating websites and the target is money. According to the force, the amount of money that has been lost in 2019 is likely to be far higher as many incidents go unreported. Catfishing and romance fraud happen when victims are lured into fake relationships by fraudsters using convincing online profiles and deceptive stories.

The JFPF was set up in 2016 by a group of local organisations to provide alerts and advice for islanders on how to protect themselves against fraudsters and scammers. The partner agencies are: States of Jersey Police, Jersey Financial Services Commission, Jersey Bankers Association, Jersey Consumer Council, Jersey Post, Trading Standards, Citizens Advice Bureau, the Jersey Honorary Police, CrimeStoppers, Airtel Vodafone, JT and Sure, and Jersey Office of the Information Commissioner.

Detective Chief Inspector Chris Beechey, who is Chairman of the Forum commented: “Scammers seek out and exploit vulnerability and loneliness. They secure their victim’s trust and then they steal their money with devastating financial and emotional consequences for the individuals concerned. It is a type of ‘financial grooming’ and we are becoming increasingly concerned by the number of islanders who are falling victim and losing their life savings to this type of crime. We are reminding islanders to always make sure they know who they’re communicating with online”.

People are being advised to never give out personal information or transfer money, unless you are absolutely sure you know the person and their intentions. The Forum is raising awareness about romance fraud and catfishing in its latest newsletter, which is being delivered to island homes this week. The newsletter also includes advice on how islanders can spot and protect themselves against other types of financial grooming and frauds. So take a look at it before you put it in your recycling!