Gardaí are warning people of a ‘Romance’ fraud in the run-up to St Valentine’s Day.
Last year, 75 cases were reported to Gardaí by both male and female victims who lost more than €1m in total.
The fraud begins on online dating sites or other social media when the fraudsters will provide victims with well-prepared stories to develop online relationships with victims.
Officers say the fraudsters will use fake identities, photographs and life stories and inevitably ask their victims for money.
The fraudster will continue to ask for money until the victim has no more money to give or realise they are being conned.
It can often leave vulnerable people with a feeling of hurt and mistrust as well as a financial loss.
- to pay for travel to meet the victim
- to pay moving expenses (ship furniture and pay customs)
- to pay medical expenses for a sick child or relative
- to invest in a guaranteed business opportunity
- to pay a tax bill or other spurious reason
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 case, a victim linked up with a female in an online chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau has advised people to never share personal or banking details with unknown people online, receive money from, or send money to unknown people and to think twice before using a webcam.
DCS Lordan also urged people to trust their instincts, saying "if it sounds like it is too good to be true, it is probably not true".
He finished by asking people to "stop and think. Ask yourself, 'is this person real?'", and if you have any doubts, talk to a friend or family member.