The Gardai are urging members of the public to remain cautious as cases of romance scams continue to rise — with the average victim losing tens of thousands in euros.
As the pandemic presses on, fraudsters have latched onto dating apps as a means to prey on people looking for love while social gatherings are curtailed.
An Irish woman lost €48,000 over the course of thirteen months to a fraudster who had wooed her online.
The woman had delayed contacting the Gardai over the scam as she was married at the time.
Another man lost over €21,000 (over five separate transactions) to a woman from the United States of America.
In 2020, almost 200 cases of romance fraud were reported to the Gardai with the average amount of money lost in excess of €20,000.
Gardai say that the scams affect both men and women and usually leave vulnerable people with ‘a feeling of hurt and mistrust in addition to their financial loss’.
They said that they will typically target people with learning difficulties.
‘The victims develop online relationships with the fraudsters, who use fake identities, photographs and life stories,’ a press email said.
‘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 deceived.’
Warning signs to look out for are people wishing to communicate on apps outside of the dating app.
They will begin asking for money for various reasons within a short time frame, usually starting with low amounts to pay for things such as travel expenses or bills.
‘Phone calls from Irish numbers or lodgements to Irish bank accounts should not be considered as evidence that the person is genuine.’
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau advises the public to never share personal or gaming details with unknown persons online and trust your instincts.
‘If you are a guardian or friend to someone with intellectual difficulties be alert to the dangers of romance fraud.’
If you have been the victim of this type of crime, please report it in confidence to your local Garda station.