Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day comes around once again, but Gardaí are cautioning people to be wary of romance fraud.
Last year saw 75 cases of romance fraud reported to gardaí, not all on Valentine’s Day, with Irish victims getting swindled out of more than €1 million.
This particular brand of fraud is enabled by online via online dating sites or other social media, with fraudsters feeding victims well prepared stories to hook victims.
Using fake identities, photographs, and life stories the fraudsters develop relationships with their victims before asking for
Warning signs that someone might not be on the level on a dating site include an aversion to messaging through the site itself.
Fraudsters will start by asking for small amounts, for things such as travel, moving expenses, sick relatives etc, escalating until the victim has no more to give or has realised the con.
People should be wary if someone consistently comes up with reasons not to meet in person, asks for money to be transferred abroad.
However an Irish phone number or bank account should not be taken as evidence that a person is genuine.
In one case an Irish victim developed a relationship with a male on a dating website. He gained her trust and she sent him €62,000 over a period of time.
In another instance a victim linked up with a female in an on-line chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said that people should trust their instincts if something seems to good to be true.
Never share banking details with a person online he also advised, and think twice before using a webcam intimately as images can be used for blackmail.
Lastly, if you have been the victim of this type of fraud, don’t be afraid to report it to your local Garda station.