Heart of the South West Trading Standards are issuing a warning to residents in Devon after a new type of Facebook scam has emerged that targets your 'heart strings'.

The scammers are mainly posting on local selling and community group pages, attempting to lure people in with fake posts about injured or lost pets and in some cases even missing children.

The posts usually follow a narrative, which reads: "Hi all, I'm desperately trying to find the owner of this sweet girl I picked up about half an hour ago alongside the road in (the name of the local town the group is associated with).

"She has been taken to the vet but does not have a microchip.

"Please share this post so she can be reunited with her owner."

The aim behind these posts is to encourage people to share them, which then gives scammers the ability to edit the post later to something completely different, such as an advertising scam or a phishing scam.

Seeing that you've shared it on your profile, your friends may think it's trustworthy and inadvertently click on it.

A spokesperson for Trading Standards Devon said: "One way to spot these scams is to click on the original poster's profile - signs it's a con include the profile being recently set up, the person living far away and not having many friends.

An example of one of the fake posts (Meta/Facebook)

"If you're not sure, don't share the post."

A spokesperson from Meta (Facebook) added: “We’re sorry to hear people are being misled in this way.

"We work closely with Stop Scams UK to help victims and remove scams at the source.”

Meta also said they work closely with law enforcement to support investigations and keep scammers off their platforms.

The spokesperson for Meta added: "We continue to invest in heavily new technologies and spent approximately $5 billion (around 4 Billion pounds) last year alone on safety and security.

"We also have over 40,000 people to do one job: keep people safe across our platforms."

Meta said they actively encourage people to report activity like this to them and the police so action can be taken, against scammers.

to learn more about cyber fraud scams and how to report them visit: https://www.actionfraud.police.uk/a-z-of-fraud-category/cyber-fraud or https://stopscamsuk.org.uk/

There is also a dedicated Facebook group which track and share fake posts.