Woman deceived by fake "well-known musician" as part of romance fraud spree
Love is in the air. Unfortunately, so is crime.
Valentine's Day approaches, so you know what that means.
That's right, it's time to brush up on romance-related fraud.
A niche industry, perhaps, yet one that can yield big business for those who choose to wield love as a weapon in the pursuit of cold, hard cash.
An Garda Síochána would very much like the public to be on its collective guard where such scams are concerned and thus have issued a warning ahead of this most corporate-friendly loved-up time of year.
Gardaí are warning people to be wary of online relationships, particularly if they are asked for money or to invest in a scheme or business.
Romance fraud increased in Ireland by a whopping 86% in 2021 – and it happens all year round.
70% of the victims in such instances are women.
Gardaí note that romance fraudsters may attempt to get their victims to send them money via the following excuses:
- To cover the cost of travelling to see them
- For emergency medical expenses for the scammer of a family member, typically a child
- A business opportunity which would allow them to live together comfortably
Specific case studies provided by An Garda Síochána make for eyebrow-raising reading.
In one case, a 41-year-old woman was contacted by a man who claimed to be a well-known musician.
She become romantically involved with him online and was ultimately defrauded of over €26,000.
Another case saw a 65-year-old woman contact Gardaí to report the loss of €35,000 after meeting a man via social media.
Throughout their online relationship, the woman was convinced to purchase stream cards, sending the codes directly to her male friend, with money later transferred to various accounts in Malaysia.
A third example saw a 38-year-old man engage with a woman online who stated she needed money to return home from Mexico.
He sent €3,800 to the woman via Bitcoin in one transaction.
Finally, a 51-year-old woman believed she was in an online relationship and agreed to transfer €90,000 to her partner in the belief that it was a loan for his business.
She now understands this to be a case of fraud.
Gardaí have pointed to an ever-increasing link between romance fraud and investment fraud.
"In many cases, scammers will ask victims to invest in a fraudulent scheme or business," says a spokesperson.
"Such investments ultimately see the funds transferred to the fraudster through a number of linked accounts.
"Members of the public are advised to be vigilant as there are huge risks involved in investing in cryptocurrencies and not to share any money with someone they meet through online websites or apps and to get professional and legal advice before investing."
What are the signs to look out for?
Romance Fraudsters will:
• Try to move communications away from dating websites. They suggest that you move to instant messaging, text or phone calls instead.
• Ask a lot of personal questions.
• Avoid answering personal questions about themselves. The details that they do tell you seem made up or do not reflect reality. For instance, they may say that they are university-educated, but their spelling and grammar is poor.
• Try to establish a bond quickly. For example, they may give you an endearing pet name e.g. 'baby', 'darling', etc.
• Ask for financial help. They may tell you about money problems in the hope that you will offer to help.
• Ask you to invest in a fraudulent scheme or business.
• Never meet you in person. They will present obstacles and may go as far as making arrangements and cancelling them at the last minute. They may promise to want to see you but offer excuses which delay this, such as financial troubles.
What can you do?
• Use trusted dating websites
• Do not share personal details
• Do not send or receive money
• Think twice before using your webcam
• Trust your instincts
For further advice or information or if you believe that you are a victim of a romance scam, or think your identity or personal information has been compromised, you can contact any Garda Station and report the crime.