Gardaí (Irish police) are warning the Irish public about the increasing number of online “catfishing” and “invoice redirect” scams targeting people across the country.
An Irish woman recently lost $45,000 (€37,000) after sending money to a man whom she believed was a US soldier serving in Afghanistan. The woman had fallen in love with the “soldier” after a long online relationship but became suspicious when he began to ask for additional funds.
The man claimed he needed the money in order to pay for his replacement in Afghanistan so he could leave the US Army. The woman sent the initial money request to a person who claimed to be a lawyer in Dublin. There was a further request made for $25,000 (€20,000), however, with the man claiming that the only way the couple could marry was if he received the money.
She would have had to borrow against her house in order to provide him with that sum, and he made promises to pay her back when they were together. Fortunately, the woman realized it was a scam and reported the crime to the Gardaí and American authorities.
“We have a good few cases of romance frauds on our books, although none of them is on the scale seen overseas. They say love can be blind and some of the victims have given away thousands of euro to people they have never met,” Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan, head of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, told the Irish Independent.
Often known as a “catfishing” scam, where the perpetrator pretends to be a potential love interest online in order to extort money from the victim, the extent of the problem in Ireland is not fully known as those targeted are often too embarrassed to report the crime. Gardaí are asking victims to report the crime as soon as possible, however, in order to assist them in attempts to retrieve any money lost.
Another growing problem in Ireland is the “invoice redirect” scam, where fraudsters carefully watch businesses’ online transactions before emailing, writing or calling under the pretense of being a legitimate supplier. They inform the business that their own bank and payment details have changed and ask the company to update the information for the current invoice. The crime is only realized when the real supplier sends an invoice reminder.
Meath County Council was almost among the victims. They were duped into handing over $5.3million (€4.3m) to an online fraudster, although fortunately they acted quickly and contacted the Gardaí when the misstep was realized. All of the money was recovered.
“Losses of more than €700,000 have been reported to us in the past two months and, if you include attempted invoice redirect frauds, the total comes to over €1.3m,” said Chief Supt Lordan.
“It’s happening on a regular basis and we receive reports of these frauds or attempts at around one per day.”