THE US Government is warning American tourists of assault by gangs "roaming the streets" of Dublin in the early hours.
Visitors from the States are also being told to be on the lookout for criminals using electronic "skimmers" at cash points and to be aware their drinks could be spiked.
In an updated crime assessment, the State Department noted that according to the Central Statistics Office, there was a marked drop in most categories of recorded crime in the first three months of the year, but theft, fraud and public order offences all increased, compared to the same the same period in 2010.
"There have been a limited number of assaults on foreigners and tourists, including violence towards members of racial minority groups," it said.
"There have also been several reported assaults in Dublin by small, unorganised gangs roaming the streets in the early morning hours after the pubs close, and a high incidence of petty crime in major tourist areas, mostly theft, burglary and purse snatching."
Thieves target rental cars and tourists, particularly in the vicinity of tourist attractions, it warned.
The Dept of State recommended that visitors to Ireland should leave their passports in a secure location separate from a purse or luggage "in case an incident occurs".
"Do not leave your drinks unattended at bars/restaurants, as there have been some instances of drinks being spiked with illegal substances, leading to incidents or robbery and sexual assaults," it said.
Crimes involving cashpoints are "also a concern" and it advised Americans should protect their PIN at all times and look closely at machines for evidence of tampering before use.
"Ireland has seen an increase in the use of 'skimmers' on ATMs, especially in tourist areas," it said.
"While the ATM user is distracted, another person will quickly withdraw the money and leave. If you are distracted in any way, cancel the transaction immediately."
The State Department also said that over the past few years, they had seen an increase in Ireland in the number of incidences involving scammers using email, chat rooms and dating/social networking sites, to target individuals.
It also said that people should treat any unsolicited invitations to travel to Ireland to collect winnings or an inheritance with scepticism.
Americans were also told not to buy counterfeit and pirated goods in Ireland, even if they were widely available.
"Not only are the bootlegs illegal to bring back into the US, you may be breaking local law too," it advised.
Tourists were also warned not to break Irish laws, "including its tough drunk- driving rules".