POLICE in Northern Ireland have issued a warning over romance scams after revealing one woman was conned out of more than £100,000.
The PSNI said the victim lost her £112,000 life savings in the ‘devastating’ scam.
The woman met the fraudster on a dating app and their relationship developed over the past year.
During that time, the scammer convinced the woman to ‘invest’ her money in cryptocurrency with the promise of a quick profit, which never materialised.
“While many of us have watched a recent documentary about this type of fraud, few of us will have experienced the devastating impact of falling victim of these criminals,” said Superintendent Gerard Pollock, Chair of ScamwiseNI Partnership.
“Sadly, this is an example of this type of crime happening right here, right now in Northern Ireland where a real-life victim has lost her life savings.
“Not only is there the stark realisation for the victim that she has been scammed, but also have to deal with and cope with the financial fallout. It’s heart breaking.”
‘All they want is your money’
He revealed the depths scammers will go to in order to manipulate their victims, including inventing stories of deceased partners to illicit sympathy.
“It may start with a message on a social media account or an apparently misdirected text message,” he said.
“Fraudsters will then seek to build a relationship quickly and try to get you to chat or text away from the dating site or app you first met them on.
“To do this the criminals use some common tactics, invent stories of deceased partners, single parents working away from family.
“Soon enough they will present you with a great investment opportunity they have made money from or an emergency requiring a short-term loan of money which they promise they will pay back.
“However, they do not intend to do so because they do not exist.
“All they wanted was your money and to get as much of it as possible.”
Superintendent Pollock advised those using online dating services to always keep communication on the dating site and to do their own research on the person, checking their social media presence to see if it matches what’s on the dating site.
He also warned that money requests should be a red flag as those looking for genuine friendship, companionship or love would not ask this.