Dating scam warning after two women defrauded of €115,000

Women befriended by two men online who duped them into sending money, PSNI says

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said that last year between January 1st and September 30th there were a total of 39 reports relating to dating scams in Northern Ireland when more than £218,000  was taken from people.  Photograph: iStock

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said that last year between January 1st and September 30th there were a total of 39 reports relating to dating scams in Northern Ireland when more than £218,000 was taken from people. Photograph: iStock

 

A senior PSNI officer has warned people seeking romance over the St Valentine’s Day period to be on the alert after two women were defrauded out of more than £100,000 (€115,000).

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said that last year between January 1st and September 30th there were a total of 39 reports relating to “dating scams” in Northern Ireland when more than £218,000 was taken from people.

“While these are alarming statistics we believe romance scams are significantly under reported. We think many people are simply too embarrassed to tell us they have been scammed in a romance fraud,” he said.

The officer said that two women from counties Armagh and Down were defrauded out of almost £105,000.

“In both of the cases reported to us in the last fortnight, both women were tricked by fraudsters. They had been befriended by two men online who duped them into sending substantial amounts of money,” said Chief Supt Walls.

Outlining the details of the fraud he explained, “The first report, made to us on February 4th involved a woman who had been befriended by a man online claiming to be in the US Army. The pair were in touch for around a month before things took a romantic turn.

“From May last year, the man told the woman a number of stories, including that he was being detained by authorities in Africa, in a bid to get her to give him money.

“The woman believed the man’s stories, and was conned into sending him £65,000. She truly believed this man was genuine as she had found a profile online that matched his details.”

Chief Supt Walls said the second case involved a woman from north down in a case notified to the police on Sunday. He explained, “It was reported the woman had entered into an online relationship with a man claiming to live in the USA where he worked as an engineer.

“They had been in touch since November and the man eventually asked the woman for money for projects. She trusted the man and believed his story, and sent him payments totaling £40,000.”

Chief Supt Walls said that sadly these two women they will not get their money back as they gave it to the fraudsters voluntarily.

Warning people to be on the alert against such schemes he said, “These reports illustrate how scammers don’t care about their victims; that they’re happy to take advantage of people’s vulnerability and good faith. Unfortunately, there is no end to the methods fraudsters will use to dupe people into giving them money.”

The officer said that “romance scammers don’t prey on a specific gender, sexuality, race or age” but that “they target everyone”.

“Just don’t let it be you. Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Protect yourself if you want to use the internet in search of love or companionship,” he added.

Chief Supt Walls advised, “Start off with a reputable website. Look out for someone asking lots of questions, but not giving any detail about themselves. Don’t ever hand over any money or send goods such as iPhones or iPads. Never let anyone you don’t know or trust transfer money into your bank account.

“If you want to buy that something special for someone on Valentine’s Day, make sure you shop from reputable websites and that you keep your details safe. There will be lots of enticing offers so think smart and stay scam wise.”