Online Romeos, are Raking in Millions?

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Gardaí warn of increase in ‘romance fraud’ scams

29th June 2022

GARDAÍ HAVE WARNED the public to be wary of an increase in romance fraud, in which fraudsters will use online dating sites or other social media to ask people to send them money.

In September of 2021 Gardaí were contacted by Hungarian Police about a case of romance fraud where a woman was deceived into sending €3,800 to a fraudulent Irish bank account.

An investigation by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau found that between September 2020 and October 2021, there were 46 suspicious credits into this bank account totaling €109,880.

11 women and one man had been tricked into sending money from Germany, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland and the UK.

The holder of this account was arrested this month and the investigation continues.

Gardai have said that this particular fraud is enabled via online dating sites or other social media by fraudsters who will provide the victims with well-prepared stories designed to deceive.

The victims develop online relationships with the fraudsters who use fake identities, photographs and life stories.

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.

Fraudsters will often seek out vulnerable people who are more likely to be trusting.

In some recent cases Gardaí have seen criminals targeting people with learning difficulties.

From January to the end of May, Gardaí have been made aware of 31 cases of romance fraud impacting 23 women and 8 men. 

The youngest victim was 27 years of age and the oldest was 69 years of age, with the average age of romance fraud victims being in their 40s.

In all cases except one, the victims encountered the suspect over a dating app or through social media.

In total, these 31 cases reported the loss of €812,715.

The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau have issued advice stating that the public should never send money online to a stranger from a dating app to pay for what they claim are medical bills, flights, or VISAs.

“Their interests will mirror yours. If you like classical 18th century French Poetry, then so will they,” Gardaí warned, and added that bank details should never be shared.

Snippets of conversation may seem to be out of sync with previous chats because fraudsters are engaging with multiple victims at the same time, following scripts prepared for them and they can get mixed up on occasions as to which victim they are talking to.

Gardaí urged people who believe they may be victims of romance fraud to report it and not be embarrassed.

Anyone worried about being a victim of the scam should contact their bank immediately because the quicker they act the better chance they have of recouping any lost funds, Gardaí said.

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