Nottinghamshire woman conned out of £5000 after falling victim to fake James Martin romance scam

James Martin
The scammer started messaging the woman pretending to be James Martin Credit: PA

A woman has been conned out of thousands of pounds by a romance scammer claiming to be TV chef James Martin.

The woman, from Nottinghamshire, believed she was messaging the Yorkshire born TV star on Facebook.

She ignored initial messages from the fraudster but was eventually coerced into lending him £5000 - which she never got back.

Police are now issuing a warning about the dangers of fake celebrity impersonators also called "catfishing" whereby a bogus celebrity profile is created to deceive and lure dedicated fans.

It comes after twelve similar cases were reported to Nottinghamshire Police in September, with a further 11 cases reported to the force in August.

In another example a vulnerable woman who thought she was chatting to Il Divo star Urs Buhler and was duped into buying and transferring Steam Gift Cards.

And a third woman believed she was messaging Take That frontman Gary Barlow. She was tricked into sending explicit images and then blackmailed for money.

Fraud protect officers have visited all three victims to provide advice and support.

A scammer pretended to be Gary Barlow to blackmail a woman Credit: PA

Detective Sergeant Tara Clapperton, of Nottinghamshire Police’s fraud prevention team, explained how the scams work by "exploiting fans' trust and enthusiasm" for money, personal data or even to install malicious software on their victims' devices.

They target their victims on social media platforms like Facebook or dating apps like Tinder and then move the conversation onto private messaging platform, like WhatsApp.

“Typically they will come across as very caring and attentive, messaging back and forth – sometimes over a period of months – to build trust and give the impression that the relationship is genuine," she said.

“The fraudster may have scoured social profiles to help persuade their victim that they are the perfect match based on shared interests or personal circumstances. Often they will claim to be living or working abroad to explain why they can’t meet in person. They might also invent reasons why they can’t turn their camera on during calls.

“Eventually they will start to tell stories about family or legal issues, business problems or medical bills. They might appear reluctant to accept any help at first, but this is all part of the con."

The scammers will often scour the comments sections of posts on the celebrity's verified social medial profiles to find potential victims.

DS Clapperton said the number of victims emphasised how sophisticated romance scams had become likening it to a form of grooming.

“A lot of people hear about these scams and think ‘I wouldn’t be taken in by that’. But these scams are clever and that’s why it’s really important people exercise vigilance communicating with others online.

“They tell convincing lies and it means that while victims think they are falling in love, they’re actually falling for a scam.

“Online dating can be a fun and empowering experience, but to avoid becoming a victim to romance fraud, it’s really important people follow some really simple advice: If you’ve started an online relationship and the discussion turns to money – regardless of the reason or the amounts involved – then alarm bells should be ringing.

“Never send money to people you’ve never met in person, no matter how much you’ve spoken online. Talking to a real-life friend or family member can be a good way to sense check what’s going on.”

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