Gardaí warn ‘rural lovers’ of online romance fraud on St. Valentine’s Day

An Garda Síochána has issued a warning to members of the public advising them to be aware of online ‘romance fraud’.

The warning timely comes as St. Valentine’s Day falls today, Friday, February 14.

According to the Garda statement, in 2019, 75 cases of romance fraud were reported to Gardaí. The victims were both male and female.

The total losses suffered as a result of romance fraud in 2019 were in excess of €1,000,000.

According to Gardaí, 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 conned.

This crime often leaves vulnerable people with a feeling of hurt and mistrust in addition to their financial loss.

The warning signs include:
  • The fraudster will ask for money for various reasons;
  • No meetings in person take place;
  • The fraudster will present reasons for not meeting, or may arrange to meet and then cancel;
  • The fraudster will avoid personal questions, but will ask plenty;
  • They will ask for money to be transferred to bank accounts abroad or via money transfer agencies to locations outside of Ireland;
  • Phone calls from Irish numbers or lodgements to Irish bank accounts should not be considered as evidence that the person is genuine.

In one case, the statement noted that an Irish victim developed a relationship with a male on an dating website and gained her trust. 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 the public as follows:
  • Ask yourself: ‘Is this person real?’
  • Never share personal or banking details with unknown persons online;
  • Never receive money from, or send money to persons unknown;
  • Think twice before using a webcam (intimate images can be used for blackmail);
  • Trust your instincts. If it sounds like it is too good to be true, it is probably not true;
  • If in doubt, talk to a family member or a friend;
  • If you have been the victim of this type of crime, please report it in confidence to your local Garda station.