The public is being reminded of the dangers of so-called romance scams after one woman was conned out of €142,000.
The woman met the criminal online on a popular dating app and had built a relationship with him over the past year.
After gaining her trust from being together for months, the fraudster convinced her that investing money in cryptocurrency was a good idea and would earn her a quick profit.
READ MORE: Irish consumers warned ‘not to engage’ with potential pyramid scheme circulating on social media
The story which eerily echoes that of the Netflix hit docuseries ‘Tinder Swindler’ left the woman short of around £112,000 (€142,596) – her life savings, police in the north have revealed.
Speaking about the ‘devastating’ crime, Gerard Pollock from the PSNI said: “While many of us have watched a recent documentary about this type of fraud, few of us will have experienced the devastating impact of falling victim of these criminals.
“Sadly, this is an example of this type of crime happening right here, right now in Northern Ireland where a real-life victim has lost her life savings.
“Not only is there the stark realisation for the victim that she has been scammed, but also has to deal with and cope with the financial fallout. It’s heartbreaking.”
Mr Pollock went on to warn that these types of criminals often start the conversation online via a social media app or dating site and then seek to build a relationship with their victim.
He said they then will coax you away from whatever app you started talking on to build trust further.
“To do this the criminals use some common tactics, invent stories of deceased partners, single parents working away from family,” Mr. Pollock continued.
“Soon enough they will present you with a great investment opportunity they have made money from or an emergency requiring a short-term loan of money which they promise they will pay back.
“However, they do not intend to do so because they do not exist. All they wanted was your money and to get as much of it as possible.”
In line with the recent loss of a woman’s life savings, police have released a reminder of how to avoid the same fate online:
- Always keep communication on the dating website or app you’re using. Many have inbuilt security and assistance.They also take steps to remove and ban fake accounts so you’re safer there.
- Carry out your own research on the person, checking their social media presence to see if it matches what’s on the dating site. Looking at key details such as name, location, and family members can help identify inconsistencies in what you have been told.
- Profile pictures can be deceiving and be taken from anywhere on the internet. You can use various websites to check photos using a reverse image search to prove if the photo is valid.
- Never ever send money to someone you haven’t met in person – If you’re looking for friendship, companionship or love online it should never start with being asked for money even to invest, and if it does it’s not a friend or relationship worth having.
“Romance scammers don’t care about your gender, sexuality, age, or race. They target everyone, please don’t let it be you,” Superintendent Pollock concluded.
“Always remember to stay on-site, using reputable dating ones. Never send money to someone you have not met or receive/transfer money on their behalf. Be alert, keep yourself safe.”
If you have been a victim of a scam, report it to An Garda Siochana or the PSNI depending on where the crime occurred.
Get breaking news to your inbox by signing up to our newsletter.