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Hook, line and sinker - how conmen use love to scam €1m

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Gardaí warned of the dangers of 'romance fraud', which can target people looking for love on the internet (stock image)

Gardaí warned of the dangers of 'romance fraud', which can target people looking for love on the internet (stock image)

PA

Gardaí warned of the dangers of 'romance fraud', which can target people looking for love on the internet (stock image)

A woman was tricked into handing over €62,000 during a phoney online relationship in a con known as 'catfishing'.

Gardaí warned of the dangers of 'romance fraud', which can target people looking for love on the internet.

Last year gardaí received reports of 75 separate incidents last year, with victims being tricked into sending more than €1m combined.

The con is engineered by fraudsters using online dating sites or other social media.

They provide the victims with well-prepared stories designed to deceive.

The victims develop online relationships with the fraudsters who use fake identities, photographs and life stories.

Inevitably, the fraudster will end up asking their victim for money.

The fraudster will continue to ask for money until the victim has no more money to give or realise they are being conned.

This crime often leaves vulnerable people with a feeling of hurt and mistrust in addition to their financial loss - they end up both broke and broken-hearted.

In one case, a victim developed a relationship with a male on a dating website.

He gained her trust and she sent him €62,000 over a period of time. In another case, a victim linked up with a female in an online chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.

Gardaí issued several warning signs that this type of fraud might be at play.

The fraudster, they say, will often ask the victim to communicate by instant messaging, text or phone calls rather than messaging through the dating website.

Often they ask for money, beginning with low amounts to pay for travel to meet the victim, to pay a bill or medical expenses or other spurious reasons.

The fraudster will present reasons for not meeting and may arrange to meet and then cancel, but no meeting will ever occur face-to-face.

The fraudster will avoid personal questions, but will ask plenty in return.

Another warning sign is that they will likely ask for money to be transferred to bank accounts abroad or via money transfer agencies to locations outside of Ireland.

Phone calls from Irish numbers or lodgements to Irish bank accounts does not necessarily prove the person genuine.

Detective Chief Superintendent Pat Lordan, of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, warned love-seekers to "stop and think" if someone you with whom you are in an online relationship asks you to send money.

He added: "Never share personal or banking details with unknown persons online.

"Never receive money from, or send money to, persons unknown and think twice before using a webcam (intimate images can be used for blackmail)."

Above all, Mr Lordan urged people to trust their instincts and if unsure to speak to a family member or a friend.

Irish Independent