Scamwatch: online chat rooms

Sexual predators are not the only chat room users to be wary of...

Pretty young woman browsing the internet on her laptop at home

Stay one step ahead of the fraudsters with our series of articles giving you the lowdown on the scams they use to trick people out of their hard-earned cash - and how to avoid being taken in by them.

This week, how fraudsters use online chat rooms to meet and gain the confidence of potential victims.

How does it work?

As any parent knows, online chat rooms can be used by sexual predators posing as teenagers in an attempt to lure young people into meeting up with them.

But youngsters are not the only ones who should be wary of people they meet in chat rooms.

Fraudsters also use chat rooms to make contact with potential victims - often by posing as lonely people looking for love.

In many cases, the fraudster will pretend to live overseas or at the other end of the country.

After using instant messaging to build a relationship, they will then ask you to send money to pay for a flight, for example, or help them pay for urgent medical treatment.

Alternatively, they may try to extort money by threatening to send any intimate pictures you have shared to your family or work colleagues.

How can I avoid being caught out?

First of all, never send money or give your credit card or online account details to anyone you meet online.

And be wary of anyone you meet in chat room who wants to continue communicating by email or mobile phone.

You should also be highly suspicious of anyone who seems too good to be true or starts telling you about the financial problems they are experiencing.

I've been defrauded. What should I do?

If you suspect you have been taken in by a chat room fraudster, the first thing to do is to break off all contact immediately.

You should also report the fraudster to the chat room operator, as well as to the police via Action Fraud (0300 123 2040).

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