Over €7 million stolen from romance fraud victims in past five years in Ireland | #DatingScams | #LoveScams | #RomanceScans

OVER €7 MILLION has been stolen from victims of romance fraud in the past five years in Ireland, according to gardaí.

This Valentine’s Day, An Garda Síochána has issued an appeal to the public to be aware of romance scams and criminals who are taking advantage of an increase in the popularity of dating apps. 

Gardaí said of the 245 victims that have come forward to them since 2020, the majority 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, according to gardaí. 

An Garda Síochána has said that 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.

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, such as working on an offshore oil rig, an aid worker, a humanitarian doctor or a soldier in a worn-torn country, gardaí said. 

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.

Gardaí said the person’s background may seem legit. For example, 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 start small, gardaí said, and in some instances if these initial asks are provided for by the victim, they will be repaid so as to build trust.

The fraudster may have more than one victim at any given time.

In time, the requests will increase in amount 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, gardaí said. 

According to gardaí, the most common conclusion to these scams is that a victim will begin to start asking questions of their money and when it becomes apparent that it has been stolen, the fraudster will cut contact and block them.

Once reported to gardaí, the investigation into these crimes will usually indicate that the victim’s money has been transferred to a bank account, cryptocurrency account or what is known as a ‘cold storage wallet’ or a ‘cold wallet’ outside of Ireland.

“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,” Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau 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,” Cryan said.

An Garda Síochána works with both Europol and Interpol to disrupt those involved in fraud of this nature as part of its investigations into romance scams.

“If you have previously been or believe that you are a victim of a romance scam, please speak with us 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,” Cryan said. 


An Garda Síochána has issued the following advice regarding romance frauds: 

  • Use a reputable dating site and its messaging function to help avoid moving to social media or texting too quickly.
  • Take the image(s) they are using on their profile and Google Reverse Image Search it.
  • Be careful of what personal details you share on your profile and do not give your address, a copy of your passport or driving licence.
  • Be wary of anyone asking lots of questions about you but not revealing much about themselves, or anyone asking you to video call but they won’t.
  • Never, ever send money or give your bank details including online banking password to someone you have met online.
  • Do not make any payment on the pretence that they visit you.
  • Do not invest your money in any opportunity offered by a person that you’ve connected with online – always seek independent financial and legal advice.
  • Do not download any app that they ask you to, such as AnyDesk.
  • If you become suspicious, save all your correspondence with the individual and immediately make contact with your bank and any garda station.
  • Look out for inconsistencies like they’re university educated, but their spelling and grammar is below average.
  • Act on instinct if you spot gaps in their story which can often occur as the fraudster mixes up which victim they are speaking with.

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