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Police urge public to be aware of ‘romance fraud’

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LOVE might be in the air around Valentine’s Day, but Dyfed-Powys Police is urging people to be wary of who they meet on dating websites after saving potential victims from sending £52,000 to fraudsters.

The force’s Financial Crime Team has offered advice to people dating online to help stop their heart – and their finances – take a bruising.

Romance fraud is where fraudsters set up fake profiles to form relationships with unsuspecting people looking for a genuine partner on dating websites. They use the site to gain your trust and ask you for money or enough personal information to steal your identity.

Over the past six months, Dyfed-Powys Police has stopped people from being conned out of a total of £52,000 in romance fraud cases through the banking protocol – a scheme that sees bank staff trained in how to spot signs that a customer may be withdrawing cash to give to a scammer.

Since the scheme was set up, the force has been able to save people a total of £156,841 – with 33% of calls taken (or £52,000) connected to romance fraud.

Fraud investigator Dawn Jones said: “The majority of accounts on dating websites are genuine people, but sadly there are fraudsters who might try to contact you by making a fake profile, using a fictional name or taking on the identity of real trusted people, and building what feels like a loving relationship.

“Without wanting to sound cynical, what we’re asking people to bear in mind is that your perfect online partner might not be who they say they are.

“There are certain things fraudsters tend to do, which should set alarm bells ringing – for example they will express strong emotions within a short space of time.  They may ask you to move away from the app or website and use a more personal, private means of contact, such as email, instant messaging, or over the phone. They might even send you gifts and shower you with compliments to make you feel special.

“Once they’re confident that they’ve won your trust, they will pretend to confide in you and tell you about a fictional problem that they need money for – maybe for a sick relative, to pay taxes, or even to pay for flights to come and see you.  Whichever way they chose to ask for money you could end up losing a lot – and the money you send is almost impossible to recover.”

The force has offered advice to anyone using online dating sites:

  • Avoid giving away too many personal details when dating online – revealing your full name, date of birth and home address might leave to your identity being stolen.
  • Never send or receive money, or give away or bank details to someone you’ve only met online, no matter how much you trust them or believe their story.
  • Pick a reputable dating website and use the site’s messaging service. Fraudsters want to quickly switch to social media or texting so there’s no evidence of asking you for money.

If you become a victim of romance fraud, report it immediately to Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040, as well as to the dating site where you met, no matter how embarrassing you might think it is.

This could result in recovering your money (although this is unusual), and help others from becoming victims to the same person.

Dial 999 if you or someone else is in immediate danger or at risk of harm.

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Milford Haven: Three hurt in violent pub incident

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THREE people were injured in a violent incident at the Trafalgar pub on Charles Street in Milford Haven, shortly after 7am on Sunday (Oct 21).

The popular drinking spot was forced to close for a few hours after a man was hospitalised and two others who were in the premises, a male and female were also hurt, but not seriously.

On Facebook, landlady Sally Allen posted: “We took the decision to close until the matter was fully investigated. I would like to thank my customers for they co-operation this morning and supporting with dealing with the matter. Much respect, thank you!”

She later added: “This was a rare but never less a horrible incident that was dealt with very professionally by staff and police. Also, I would like to thank everyone involved for there full cooperation.

“A real show of a community of locals pulling together.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of my staff and customers for their support in this matter at the time and afterwards.
“The offender is a known to the town and police as a troublemaker.

“He is being dealt with by the police and has a lifetime ban from the Trafalgar pub.”

A spokesman for Dyfed-Powys Police told The Herald: “We attended The Trafalgar pub, Milford Haven, shortly after 7am on Sunday, October 21, following reports of an assault. One man was taken to hospital with a head wound and a woman and a second man received minor injuries.”

The spokesman added: “A 30-year-old man was arrested at 8.20am at Steynton Road on suspicion of grievous bodily harm, and later released on police bail with conditions.”

In an appeal for information, the police said: “The investigation is ongoing, anyone with information is asked to report it by calling 101. If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Quote reference: DP-20181021-067.”

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Haverfordwest: Suspected child groomer remanded

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A MERLINS BRIDGE man has been remanded into custody after being arrested and charged with a child grooming offence.

Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court heard on October 23 that from October 14 to October 20 in Haverfordwest, Shaun Smith, 63, used Facebook messenger to groom a 14-year-old girl and then made attempts to meet that girl in the local Mc Donald’s restaurant.

Shaun Smith, 63, looked emotionless in the dock, and did not enter any plea to the single charge under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Wearing a grey jogging suit, he confirmed his name, date of birth and address from behind a glass screen.

He will now remain in custody until his next hearing at Swansea Crown Court on Friday, November 23, at 10am for his own safety, and to stop the defendant absconding, the court heard.

He was represented in court by Mike Kelleher or Red Kite Solicitors.

Mr Kelleher made no application for bail as no suitable address could be found for Smith.

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Pembroke: RSPCA appeal after mare abandoned

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RSPCA CYMRU is appealing for information after a Thoroughbred bay mare was found abandoned in Pembroke.

It has been reported to the animal welfare charity that on Friday, October 5, the horse was seen being unloaded onto land belonging to the Windmill Hill Caravan Park which is on one of the main roads to Pembroke.

RSPCA inspector Keith Hogben said: “This Thoroughbred bay mare has a slight injury to her hip, which possibly could be an old injury as she was a racehorse. It is just so sad that someone has just left her.

“A blue transit van was seen with the horse by some witnesses. This does appear to be an abandonment, and we’d urge anyone with information about this horse to contact the RSPCA through our inspector appeal line on 0300 123 8018 so we can find out more information about what happened here.

“The horse has a microchip and has the name ‘All Talk’ and we know that the horse had been rehomed to a livery yard in Pembrokeshire, so we’re using this information with our enquiries, but we also need the help of members of the public for vital information.

“We also urge people to seriously think about the commitment involved in caring for horses as this sadly happens far too often.”

Should you wish to help RSPCA Cymru with work like this, you can donate online. The RSPCA is a charity and relies on public donations.

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