An Garda Síochána is warning people to be aware of ‘romance’ fraud ahead of St Valentine’s Day.
Last year, 75 cases of ‘romance’ fraud were reported to the Gardaí.
The victims – both men and woman – suffered losses of over €1m.
Officers say this particular fraud is carried out through online dating sites or other social media by fraudsters who give the victims well-prepared stories.
The victims then develop online relationships with the fraudsters, who use fake identities, photographs and life stories.
“Inevitably, the fraudster will ask their victim for money”, Gardaí say.
“The fraudster will continue to ask for money 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.”
Gardaí are asking people to be aware of the following warning signs:
- The fraudster asking the victim to communicate by instant messaging, text or phone calls rather than messaging through the dating website
- The fraudster will start asking for money for various reasons, starting with low amounts to pay for travel to meet the victim
- to pay moving expenses (ship furniture and pay customs)
- to pay medical expenses for a sick child or relative
- to invest in a guaranteed business opportunity
- to pay a tax bill or other spurious reason
- No meetings in person take place. The fraudster will present reasons for not meeting, or may arrange to meet and then cancel
- The fraudster will avoid personal questions, but will ask plenty
- They will 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 should not be considered as evidence that the person is genuine
In one case, an Irish victim developed a relationship with a man 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 woman in an on-line chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.
People are being reminded to never share personal or banking details with unknown persons online, never receive money from or send money to persons unknown and trust your instincts
Remember: if it sounds like it is too good to be true, it usually is.