By DULCIE PEARCE Published: 11 Feb 2011

GAZING at Valentine’s cards and heart-shaped chocolate boxes, Claire Middleton smiles.

Not because she is madly in love but because she knows this week she will earn thousands seducing other women’s husbands and boyfriends.

The 27-year-old is a highly paid honey-trapper — and the run-up to Valentine’s Day is her busiest time.

Claire says: “Women are desperate to know if their man is a cheat before they spend the most romantic day of the year with him.

“It’s a sad reflection of the age we are living in but the lead-up to Valentine’s Day is when I am most in demand.

“I have worked every night this week and have trapped four men already.

“My employees range from suspicious wives and girlfriends, to worried parents and even grandparents.

“Honey-trapping is not romantic but as February 14 draws closer, it’s definitely more in demand.”

Claire, from Brixton, South London, works as an office admin assistant and honey-traps part-time through an agency.

She turned her hand to it a year ago after a bad break-up inspired her to help other women discover if their partners were cheats too.

In that time she has successfully trapped more than 30 men. Earning £500 to £1,500 per “target” depending on how long the job takes, she has raked in thousands.

Claire says: “Honey-trapping doesn’t just involve going out and pulling a man — it takes weeks of surveillance and research. I have to understand how the man thinks and what appeals to him, that way it is easier to trap him.

“I’ve had months of training in surveillance and learned how to use all the equipment.

“It’s a highly skilled practice and I have so far earned around £40,000 from honey-trapping.”

She added: “I was cheated on and lost all my confidence, wouldn’t go out and felt like a failure.

“It hurts and people deserve to know if their partners are deceiving them. I don’t hate men and I’m not doing this job to get back at the man who cheated on me.

“I don’t believe men or women should be allowed to cheat.”

Claire’s attributes her success rate to her “girl next door” looks.

She says: “I’m not a busty blonde who looks like she’d be after a man’s money. Women like that can be very intimidating and rarely get work in this business.

“It’s better to look ordinary like me. I can dress up and look sexy, but can also appear casual and down-to-earth.

“Men don’t want to be intimidated by a woman. They want to feel comfortable and attractive.

“This week is one of the busiest for all honey-trapping agencies, as many people feel it is a time to make a relationship more serious — be it a proposal or decision to have children.

“It’s an important time for many couples and they want to know if the person they are with is truly committed. I feel sad that a week that should be about love is in fact about exposing love cheats but it’s all for the best.

“If women need to know, it’s the clearest way of finding out if your man is a cheater.”

Honey-trapping is now not just for wealthy women.

Claire finds many wives and girlfriends will secretly save, use credit cards or loans to secure their peace of mind.

She says: “I had one lady on benefits who saved £500 because she needed her suspicions answered.

“It wasn’t a waste of money either — her husband was a cheat.”

When Claire is trapping, she wears a hidden mic and camera in a necklace, pen or glasses.

The footage will then be shown to the wife, girlfriend or in-laws who have hired her.

She says: “Before I do a job, I will receive a ‘trap pack’ from my agency. This includes photos of the man, or ‘target’ as we call him, a list of his interests, hobbies, job, marital status, favourite drinks, books and subjects of conversation.

“There is always a handwritten note from the person hiring me explaining why they’re doing it and why they’ve chosen me.

“The Valentine’s traps are mostly in bars and clubs. I never go for a tarty look and usually wear understated and simple clothing.

“One thing I always wear is a smile. It’s incredible how far that can get you with a man — a smile and eye contact is the best way to flirt with a man.

“Usually I spill a drink or sit at the bar looking lonely to initiate a conversation.

“I recently sat next to a target, pulled out a Valentine’s Day card and started to cry. I told him my boyfriend had broken up with me and had cruelly told me in a Valentine’s card.

“It worked a treat.”

Claire always waits for the man to make the first move and can never go for a target if he is drunk, as that would be entrapment.

Claire says: “I let him offer to buy me a drink, ask me to sit down, ask me to dance, ask for my number or try to kiss me.

“I play coy and whenever I give a guy my number it’s the agency’s mobile and they always start texting.

“Then we show these texts to their partners. The messages are usually flirty, and sometimes very sexual.

“Men seem to find it easier to be flirtatious and sexual over texts and emails, rather than in real life.

“It’s ideal, as it’s the evidence I need to expose them as a cheat.”

Claire also kisses men on video, so their partners can see.

She says: “I will only go as far as kissing but I know that other honey-trappers do sleep with their targets. The women I work for count kissing another woman as the evidence they need that their man is a cheater.”

Single Claire finds that life as a honey-trapper can take its toll and although she loves her job she has decided to take a break after Valentine’s Day.

She says: “Like most girls, I still believe in love and romance.

“I adore my day job and I love doing surveillance but I do want to settle down and certainly can’t meet a man while I’m trapping.

“For most people, this week means nothing but romance — for me it means days of hard work.”