Cons and Roses: Wicklow people urged to be wary of Valentine’s ‘romance fraud’
St Valentine’s Day is said to be the most romantic day of the year, but it can also have the opposite effect of making people feel lonely – and there are people out there only too willing to exploit this loneliness.
This Valentine’s Day, gardai are urging people in Wicklow to be aware of ‘romance fraud’ and to take care when connecting with people on dating apps or online sites.
Last year there were 75 cases of Romance Fraud reported in Ireland with victims, both male and female, being conned out of more than €1,000,000.
Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau said: “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.”
Gardai point to two cases last year where one female was conned out of €62,000 by someone posing as a man online, while in the other case a male was taken for €50,000 by a scammer posing as a woman.
The warning signs that you could be the victim of a scam are easy to spot, according to the gardai.
These include only communicating by instant messaging, text or phone calls rather than messaging through the dating website; being asked for money for varying reasons; asking the victim to pay for travel to meet or to move; pay for medical expenses; or get involved in investments.
Gardai say the scammers will always find reasons to get out of arranged meets, will be vague about personal details, and will ask for money transfers to bank accounts based abroad.
“Stop and think! Ask yourself, is this a real person?” Supt Lordan said.
“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 as intimate images can be used for blackmail, and trust your instincts – if it sounds like it is too good to be true, it is probably not true,” he concluded.
Supt Lordan urged anyone who has been a victim of ‘romance fraud’ and have not reported to come forward to their local Garda station.