Garda issues Valentine’s Day warning as woman loses €450,000 in romance scam

More than 240 victims have lost an average €28,500 to people they believed were their romantic partners after meeting online

Gardaí have issued a Valentine’s Day warning about online romance scams after one woman lost €450,000 to a person she met online and believed was a new romantic partner. With the growing popularity of dating apps, gardaí have said 245 romance fraud victims, mostly women, had come forward to report the scams, each losing an average of €28,500, totaling €7 million, since 2019.

Gardaí are now warning that people using dating apps need to become online detectives in screening those they meet, including checking if the profile photographs they are using have simply been taken off the internet.

In one case, a man in his 50s, based in the east of the country, made a connection on a dating app with a woman he believed was based in Asia. After interacting with her for some time, including speaking by phone, they agreed to start a relationship. The man forwarded her €2,100 towards the cost of travelling to Ireland, and ultimately lost €36,000.

Another victim, a woman in her 30s from the southern region, befriended a person on a dating app she believed was an online trader. She was convinced to transfer €20,000 to him via an online bank and believed she was investing in a trading app. A woman in her 40s, based in the eastern region, lost €26,300 to man she befriended on Facebook. He claimed he was working as a doctor in a war-torn country and needed funds to travel home.


A fourth victim, a woman in her 40s from the south of the country, believed she had developed a relationship with a man overseas she met on a dating app. He claimed his construction business was in difficulty and, in about 100 transactions, the woman sent him €35,000.

Gardaí are now very concerned about the frequency of the scams, saying the loss of €450,000 by one woman was the highest by a female and that a €380,000 loss was the biggest scam targeting a man in the Republic.

Det Supt Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau urged victims not to be embarrassed and to come forward and report the crimes. He said romance-based frauds began as a person believing “they have met their perfect match” only to be “terribly deceived”.

“It becomes a huge invasion of privacy and a breach of trust which can impact your whole view of people and the possibility of romance, but it’s important to remember that this is fraud and it is a crime,” he said, adding the stolen money was often moved out of the country and used to fund terrorism, organised crime, human trafficking and corruption.

Det Supt Cryan urged people to continue using the messaging function of dating apps, rather than moving to off-platform messaging methods too quickly. He said fraudsters “groomed” their victims online and “appear to say all the right things” because they were using a pre-prepared script.

In some cases the fraudsters would initially take small sums of money and then repay it quickly to build trust. Fraudsters often posed as people working or living in places that made travel, or communication, very difficult, such as working as soldiers, aid workers or doctors in war-torn regions.

The fraudsters often posed as men who were widowed or divorced, who had grown-up children and initially claimed they were seeking a platonic relationship rather than romance. Some of them presented investment, or cryptocurrency, opportunities as a means to secure money from their victims.

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Conor Lally

Conor Lally

Conor Lally is Security and Crime Editor of The Irish Times