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Woman sent nudes to online fraudster she thought was Gary Barlow - celebrity dating scam rise

A WOMAN was conned out of thousands of pounds by a romance fraudster who posed as TV chef James Martin, while another was tricked into sending explicit images to someone she thought was Gary Barlow, police have revealed.

In the James Martin case, the woman lost about £5,000 as she exchanged messages with the scammer who she was messaging via Facebook and believed was the ITV star.

Nottinghamshire Police, which investigated the case, is warning online daters to b e careful after reports of the crime have soared, while the true extent is unknown as many victims are too embarrassed to come forward.

Twelve cases were reported to the force in September, with a further 11 cases reported in August.

Of these cases, three were categorised as celebrity impersonator scams, also called ‘catfishing’. It involves fraudsters creating and curating convincing profiles to deceive and lure in dedicated fans.

In the James Martin (top right) case, the woman ignored three messages before the scammer managed to convince her he was the TV chef and coerced the woman into lending him money, which she didn’t get back.

Another example involved a vulnerable woman who was conned into purchasing and transferring Steam Gift Cards after believing she’d been talking to Il Divo singer Urs Bühler for two months.

A third woman was tricked into believing she was communicating with Take That frontman Gary Barlow (top left) on TikTok. She was coerced into sending explicit images which the trickster threatened to share if she didn’t pay him money. She refused, blocked the person and thankfully nothing has happened since.

Detective Sergeant Tara Clapperton, said: "These scammers exploit fans’ trust and enthusiasm to perpetrate impostor scams, aiming to illicitly gain financial benefits, personal data, or even install malicious software such as malware or ransomware on their victims’ devices.

“The scammers will usually target victims on social media platforms, particularly Facebook, or dating apps, such as Tinder. But they might quickly try to move the conversation onto another 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 number of victims emphasised how sophisticated romance scams had become.

She added: “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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