People who were victims of so-called ‘romance fraud’ were defrauded of more than €800,000 between January and May as the gardaí issued a warning about rising incidents of such scams.
An investigation into an alleged scheme began last September after Hungarian police asked gardaí to help in a case where a woman was tricked into sending $4,000 to an Irish bank account.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau has identified the account holder.
Analysis showed that between September 2020 and October 2021, €109,880.28 was credited to this account via 46 suspicious transactions from 12 different people – 11 women and one man – in eight EU countries – Germany, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland and the United Kingdom.
Once credit was credited to the account, the money was immediately withdrawn, either in cash, transferred electronically, or used in point-of-sale transactions.
Gardaí believed that the 12 people who had transferred money to this particular account had all been victims of “romance fraud”.
The Account Owner was arrested earlier this month and investigations are ongoing.
Between January and May this year, 23 women and eight men reported this type of fraud to the gardaí.
Gardaí said the youngest victim was 27, the oldest being 69, and the average age of women who were tricked into sending money was 44, and the average age of men. was 47 years old.
In all but one case, the victims met the suspect through a dating app or through social media.
The reported total loss was €812,715 and in almost all cases the money was transferred to accounts outside Ireland or Bitcoin wallets.
Gardaí says they believe this type of fraud is underreported and urged people to exercise caution before being approached for money by people they meet online.
They said the crime often leaves vulnerable people with feelings of pain and distrust, and in recent cases they have seen criminals target people with learning disabilities.
Gardaí has given the following advice to people on dating sites or in communication with people they have never met on social media:
- Use reputable dating sites and use their messaging service. Don’t move too quickly to social media or texting. Be especially wary of unsolicited links or approaches or like suggestions.
- Be careful what you share on social media and online dating sites. Do not reveal your full name or home address. Protect your identity.
- Beware of people who ask a lot of questions about you but don’t reveal much about themselves. They will appear to be the ideal person. They will like what you like. Their interests will mirror yours. These scammers interact with several victims at the same time, following scripts prepared for them and they can sometimes get confused as to which victim they are talking to.
- Never send money or give your bank details to anyone you’ve never met, no matter how much you believe and trust them. Do not download apps like AnyDesk at their request or allow them to control your device
- Don’t send them money or pay medical bills, buy flights or VISA, pay customs or make any payment for them to come visit you.
- Don’t invest your money in “opportunities” offered by them or someone you only “met” online. Always seek independent financial and legal advice first.
- Remember that individuals can impersonate the person they want to be online. You can Google an image to see if it appears on multiple sites or profiles.
- Never provide copies of your personal documents such as passports or driving licenses.
- Never make arrangements or travel to meet them unless you are sure of their identity. Be sure to confide in someone and make sure the person knows you are confiding in someone else. Keep copies of correspondence with him.
- Don’t be shy to report it to gardaí, you are not alone. They are professional fraudsters who use social engineering tactics over long periods of time.
- If you think you have been a victim, contact your bank immediately. The faster you act, the more likely you are to recover lost funds