'Devastating impact' - woman sends €336,000 to romance fraudster she met on Facebook
A Northern Ireland woman has been scammed out of more than £300,000 (€336,000) by a man who promised her a romantic relationship.
The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, was targeted by the man on Facebook three years ago and she believed a relationship had developed.
After three months, the scammer asked her to send him money for his children to be educated in England.
She was later asked for money in relation to investing in both Ghana and Dubai.
In total she sent more than £300,000 (€336,000) to different accounts at his request in what Chief Superintendent Simon Walls described as one of the biggest romance frauds the PSNI has seen in a long time. He said it was unclear where the scammer was from, and believes he may be moving around internationally.
Chief Supt Walls said the woman had been left devastated by the elaborate deception.
"Inquiries are ongoing into this fraud which has, understandably, had a devastating impact on the victim," he said.
"We receive reports of fraud on a regular basis and, no matter how big or small the amount of money is that a victim loses, every loss is felt by those targeted.
"However, this is one of the bigger scams where a victim has been swindled out of such a significant amount of money."
In total, more than £1.6m (€1.8m) was stolen from victims in Northern Ireland in a variety of scams between November and May.
Chief Supt Walls said romance scams were not the most common type reported to police, but they are more personally hurtful to victims.
"It becomes really personal (for the victim), because you let them into your life, tell them all about your past and your secrets, and someone then ends up falling in love with the individual, so these are probably the most insidious of all, and not to generalise, but some who respond to these are vulnerable," he said.
The senior officer said he believed romance scams were significantly under-reported.
"We think many people are simply too embarrassed to tell us they have been scammed in a romance fraud," he said.