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Woman's savings stolen by 'romance fraudster'

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Gardaí are investigating after a woman's bank account was "emptied" in a so-called case of "romance fraud".

The Limerick woman, aged in her 40s, began a long-distance relationship with a man she met online.

During the course of the relationship, she loaned him some money.

He later told her he wanted to repay it and asked for her bank account details.

The woman was later contacted by her bank and was told her account was overdrawn and had been emptied.

Investigating garda, Sgt Ber Leetch, crime prevention officer at Henry Street Garda Station in Limerick, said people should never give their bank account details online to a third party.

"This type of fraud usually builds up over a length of time," said Sgt Leetch.

"In this romance fraud a lady in her 40s who lives in Limerick met a gentleman online last September and a long-distance romance began."

The man "claimed to be living in America" and "exchanged phone calls and online contact many times in the past seven months".

"At one stage, this lady loaned him a sum of money which she willingly transferred from her bank account to his. He then told her that he wished to pay her back so she gave him her bank details," said Sgt Leetch.

"She subsequently received contact from her bank to say that she was overdrawn, that her bank account was empty."

Sgt Leetch said the woman cannot trace the man since.

"We know it's possible that this gentleman could have a number of 'romances' on the go at any one time and acquire a large sum of money. This must have been so shocking for the lady."

Sgt Leetch said gardaí were "always very grateful to people who report these types of frauds, as it gives me the opportunity to caution others.

"Unfortunately, it occurs frequently, with both men and women caught out," she said.

"Do not give your bank details to anybody, and be very, very suspicious if somebody asks you for them."

She also highlighted a case where a man received an email purporting to be from his phone provider telling him he had paid his bill twice and asking him to fill out a claim form.

However, he was suspicious and contacted the provider and was told it was a scam.

Irish Independent