An Irish woman who became entangled in an online relationship and lost €35,000 is just one example of recent cases of online romance fraud that gardaí are highlighting in the run-up to Valentine’s Day.
The 65-year-old contacted gardaí to report that she lost the money after meeting a man on social media.
“Throughout their online relationship she was convinced to purchase stream cards and send the codes directly onto her male friend, subsequently she then transferred money to various accounts in Malaysia,” a garda spokesperson explained.
Latest garda figures show that romance fraud increased by 86% in 2021, with 70% of victims being women.
Fraudsters are using excuses like travel costs to see the victim, medical bills, and investment opportunities to scam victims of their money.
The topic of romance fraud has been brought to public attention in recent weeks following the release of Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler which follows the story of a conman who has scammed countless victims all over the world into handing over cash to fuel his luxury lifestyle.
Here in Ireland, a woman aged 41 was scammed into losing €26,000 by a man claiming to be a well-known musician.
Another 51-year-old female believes she’s been a victim of romance fraud after transferring €90,000 to a man online in the belief that it was a loan for his business.
Meanwhile, a 38-year-old man reported that he began engaging online with a female who said she needed money to return to her Mexico home. The man sent €3,800 to her via Bitcoin in one transaction.
Sergeant John Kelly of Fermoy Garda Station said that the onset of the pandemic meant people “went into a virtual world for companionship”, becoming targets for romance fraud.
“It’s an under-reported crime and gardaí feel we don’t have full knowledge of the amount of it that’s happening,” he told Patricia Messinger on C103’s Cork Today this week.
Gardaí say they are working alongside Europol in monitoring dating sites to disrupt the activities of these romance scammers, particularly organised crime gangs.
How to spot a ‘Tinder Swindler’
They’ll try to move communications away from the dating site or app and suggest using other messaging apps or phone calls.
They ask a lot of personal questions but don’t provide any detail on themselves that don’t seem far-fetched.
“For instance, they may say that they are university educated, but their spelling and grammar is poor,” advised the garda spokesperson.
They’ll create a bond with you very fast by using “endearing pet names”.
Soon, you’ll be told of their money problems in hopes you’ll send money, or you could be asked to invest in a scheme or business.
Finally, they will