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Dublin: 3 °C Tuesday 18 February, 2020

Two women duped out of £105,000 in online romance scam

Northern Ireland police have issued a scam warning ahead of Valentine’s Day this year.

Image: Shutterstock

POLICE IN NORTHERN Ireland have issued a warning to people searching for love online after two romance scams were reported in the lead-up to Valentine’s Day. 

Two scams reported in the last fortnight in Co Antrim and Co Down involved two women who lost a total amount of £105,000, PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls has said. 

“Unfortunately, we continue to see members of the public lose very significant amounts of money in online and telephone scams.”

Between 1 January and 30 September last year there were a total of 39 reports relating to dating scams in Northern Ireland, according to Walls. 

More than £218,000 was scammed from people in that time and “while these are alarming statistics we believe romance scams are significantly under reported,” he added.

We think many people are simply too embarrassed to tell us they have been scammed in a romance fraud.

Both cases reported in the last fortnight involved two women being tricked by fraudsters. The women were befriended by two men online who “duped them” into sending substantial amounts of money, the PSNI has said. 

‘A romantic turn’

In the first incident, a woman was befriended by a man online claiming to be in the US Army. The pair were in touch for around a month before things took a romantic turn.

From May last year, the man told the woman a number of stories, including that he was being detained by authorities in Africa, in a bid to get her to send him money.

“The woman believed the man’s stories, and was conned into sending him £65,000,” Walls has said. “She truly believed this man was genuine as she had found a profile online that matched his details.”

The second report involved a woman in Co Down. The woman had entered into an online relationship with a man claiming to live in the USA where he worked as an engineer. They had been in touch since November and the man eventually asked the woman for money for projects. She trusted the man and believed his story and sent him payments totalling £40,000.

“Sadly, for these two women they will not get their money back as they gave it to the fraudsters voluntarily,” Walls has said. “These reports illustrate how scammers don’t care about their victims; that they’re happy to take advantage of people’s vulnerability and good faith. Unfortunately, there is no end to the methods fraudsters will use to dupe people into giving them money.

“Romance scammers don’t prey on a specific gender, sexuality, race or age. They target everyone, just don’t let it be you. Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Protect yourself if you want to use the internet in search of love or companionship.”

Wall has advised people to “start off with a reputable website” and to look out for someone asking lots of questions but not giving any detail about themselves. “Don’t ever hand over any money or send goods such as iPhones or iPads,” the PSNI has said, and “never let anyone you don’t know or trust transfer money into your bank account.”

“If you want to buy that something special for someone on Valentine’s Day, make sure you shop from reputable websites and that you keep your details safe. There will be lots of enticing offers so think smart and stay scam wise.”

If you have been targeted in this way the PSNI advise people to report it to Action Fraud via their website or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.

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