Gardaí issue warning over ‘romance scammers’ – out to steal your heart and your money | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

As the most romantic day of the year approaches, gardai revealed details of the scale of romance fraud

As the most romantic day of the year approaches, gardai revealed details of the scale of romance fraud that has resulted in more than €7 million being stolen from victims over the past five years.

The majority of the 245 victims who have come forward since 2020, were female and their average financial loss was €28,500.

The highest reported loss by a female in Ireland was over €450,000 stolen in 18 transactions, while one male victim had more than €380,000 taken.

In just one case recorded last year, a man in his 50s from the east of the country had connected with a female on a dating site who was supposedly living in Asia.

After communicating over the phone, they subsequently agreed to pursue a relationship and began making arrangements for her to travel to Ireland.

He initially transferred the cost to cover a Visa, long-haul flight and transfers to the value of €2,100. In total, however, the victim transferred over €36,000 as part of the romance scam.

In another case form last year, woman in her 30s living in the southern region was tricked into handing over €20,000 by who she thought was an online trader she had matched on a dating app.

He added his victim to a messaging app where they spoke for several weeks, and subsequently convinced her to transfer the money via an online bank.

Another woman in her 40s from the Eastern region, was added on Facebook by a male who claimed to be a doctor based in a worn-torn country.

After speaking for a number of weeks, the victim was asked for a significant sum of money in order to be able to return home. In total, €26,300 was stolen from this woman.

And another woman in 40s from the same are region had spoken for months with a man having exchanged photos after meeting on an online dating site.

“Soon they were a couple despite her being based in the south-west of Ireland and he living overseas,” gardai said. “During the course of their online relationship, he claimed that his construction business was failing and he required financial support. In the course of 100 transactions, €35,000 was stolen from this victim.”

As a result, this Valentine’s Day, gardai say they are advising the public to beware of romance scams and criminals who are taking advantage of an increase in the popularity of dating apps among those seeking romance.

“Typically, fraudsters use someone else’s photos to set up a fake profile on dating apps and online dating sites to scour through profiles to identify potential victims who they will then target and groom over a sustained period in an effort to extract their money,” gardaí revealed.

“Their profile usually depicts a person that has a responsible job but is most often fictitiously based in a location which makes them unable to travel or move freely, and has poor phone network or internet connection i.e. working on an offshore oil rig, an aid worker, a humanitarian doctor or a soldier in a worn-torn country.

“They’ll match or connect on the dating app and quickly encourage their victim to move to a messaging app or email. They’ll say all the right things because they follow prepared scripts.”

Gardai say their background may seem legit and they will usually claim to have been married and now widowed or divorced, have grown up children and be seeking a platonic relationship, “but that is all part of the ploy”.

The requests for money can start small and in some instances will even be repaid if asked by the lender to build trust.

But the fraudster who will have more than one victim at any given time, will demand further increased mounts and before a victim necessarily realises it, they’re being pressured to pay anything from essential medical bills and custom duties, to purchasing flights and Visas.

Sometime the fraud can take the shape of an investment pitch with victims encouraged to invest on the basis that they will make a quick profit.

But when the victim starts asking questions the fraudster will cut contact and block them. Once reported, the investigation into these crimes will usually indicate that the victim’s money has been transferred to a bank account, Crypto account or what is known as a ‘Cold Storage Wallet’ or a ‘Cold Wallet’ outside of Ireland.

Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said a victim will be made believe that they have met their perfect match online, “but are in fact being terribly deceived”.

“ It becomes a huge invasion of privacy and a breach of trust which can impact your whole view of people and the possibility of romance, but it’s important to remember that this fraud and it is a crime,” Det Super Cryan said.

“It is often the case that a victim’s money is transferred overseas to fund organised criminal activities such as terrorism, human trafficking, people smuggling and even corruption. An Garda Síochána work closely with both Europol and Interpol to disrupt those involved in fraud of this nature as part of our investigations into romance scams.

Gardai have urged people who have previously been or believe that have fallen victim of a romance scam to speak with them at any Garda station.

“This can very easily happen and no one should feel embarrassed, we are here to help and will treat every report in confidence,” gardai added.

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