GARDAÍ are warning hopeless romantics to be aware of ‘romance fraud’ this Valentines Day, after an Irish woman was tricked into handing over €62,000 in an online scam.
ardái received 75 reports of romance fraud last year, with victims being conned out of more than €1 million.
A garda spokesman has warned that fraudsters are using dating sites and social media to meet their victims and will then use fake identities, photographs and life stories to develop a relationship with them, before asking them for money.
The fraudster will continue to ask for money either until the victim has no more money to give or realise they are being conned. This crime often leaves vulnerable people with a feeling of hurt and mistrust in addition to their financial loss – broke and broken-hearted.
In one case an Irish victim developed a relationship with a male on a dating website. He gained her trust and she sent him €62,000 over a period of time. In another case, a victim linked up with a female in an online chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.
Gardaí issued several warning signs that this type of fraud might be at play.
The fraudster, they say, will often ask the victim to communicate by instant messaging, text or phone calls rather than messaging through the dating website.
Often they ask for money, beginning with low amounts to pay for travel to meet the victim, to pay a bill or medical expenses or other spurious reasons.
The fraudster will present reasons for not meeting and may arrange to meet and then cancel, but no meeting will ever occur face-to-face.
The fraudster will avoid personal questions, but will ask plenty and will likely ask for money to be transferred to bank accounts abroad or via money transfer agencies to locations outside of Ireland.
Phone calls from Irish numbers or lodgements to Irish bank accounts does not necessarily prove the person genuine.
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau warned love-seekers to “stop and think” if someone you are in an online relationship with asks you to send money.
He continued, “Never share personal or banking details with unknown persons online, Never receive money from, or send money to persons unknown and think twice before using a webcam – intimate images can be used for blackmail.”
Above all, Mr Lordan urged people to trust their instincts and if unsure to speak to a family member or a friend.