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Dublin: 15 °C Tuesday 23 April, 2019
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Garda warning over 'romance scams' after victim loses €48,000 in just over a year

The online scammers convince victims that they have met their perfect match, before asking for money.

Image: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

MEMBERS OF THE public have been warned to watch out for so-called ‘romance scams’ after a number of victims across the country lost thousands of Euro to fraudsters.

Gardaí have advised the public to be wary this Valentine’s Day and have offered an insight into how the scams work and tips on how people can avoid them.

The scammers – who operate online – convince their victims that they have met their perfect match, and often use a fake profile to build up a relationship.

They gradually gain the victim’s trust over time, with a view to eventually asking them for money.

Gardaí revealed that in one case, a woman was given expensive gifts such as scarves and perfumes before being asked to invest in her ‘suitor’s’ business, paying him €48,000 over a thirteen-month period.

When the woman finally realised something was wrong, she delayed reporting the fraud to gardaí because she was married.

In another case, one romance fraudster in the west of Ireland was found guilty of taking nearly €19,000 from a victim.

The scammer managed to obtain money by deceiving their victim over a five-month period, after meeting them on a dating website.

Detective Inspector Catharina Gunne from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau warned that fraudsters often used excuses such as the cost of travelling to see the victim, funds for emergency medical expenses or a business opportunity to obtain money.

“In the beginning, the amount of money requested will often be small but increases as the scammer becomes more successful in building the ‘relationship’ and tricking the victim,” Gunne said.

Gardaí also say romance fraudsters will often attempt to quickly move to communicate away from dating websites, and ask a lot of personal questions while avoiding personal questions about themselves.

They will also try to establish a bond quickly, but present obstacles and make excuses to avoid meeting in person, and may mention money problems in the hope that potential victims offer to help.

To avoid scammers, gardaí have advised the public to use trusted dating websites, avoid sending or receiving money, and to trust their instincts.

Those who believe that they have been the victim of a romance scam have also been told to contact any Garda Station and report the crime, which gardaí say will be treated in confidence.

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