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Gardaí warn people about 'romance fraud' ahead of Valentine’s Day

In 2019, people in Ireland lost in excess of €1 million through such fraud.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Tero Vesalainen

AN GARDA SÍOCHÁNA has warned members of the public to be aware of ‘romance fraud’ ahead of St Valentine’s Day tomorrow.

In 2019, 75 cases of so-called romance fraud were reported to gardaí. The victims were both male and female. The total losses suffered were in excess of €1 million. 

“This particular fraud is enabled via online dating sites or other social media by fraudsters who will provide the victims with well-prepared stories designed to deceive,” gardaí said in a statement issued today. 

They said victims “develop online relationships with the fraudsters, who use fake identities, photographs and life stories”.

“Inevitably, the fraudster will ask their victim for money. 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,” the statement notes. 

Gardaí said the warning signs of such scams include:

• 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

Large sums of money 

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, gardaí said. 

In another case, a victim linked up with a female in an online chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.

Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau has the following advice for people:

  • If you are asked for money by a person with whom you are in an online relationship, ask yourself if this person is real
  • Never share personal or banking details with unknown people online
  • Never receive money from or send money to people you don’t know 
  • Think twice before using a webcam (intimate images can be used for blackmail)
  • Trust your instincts – if it sounds like it is too good to be true, it probably is 
  • If in doubt, talk to a family member or a friend.
  • If you have been the victim of this type of crime, please report it in confidence to your local garda station

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About the author:

Órla Ryan

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