It may be the season of love, with Valentine’s Day just days away, but a bit of caution is advised if you’re looking for romance online.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) have issued a stark – and deeply unromantic – warning this week. Two women in Northern Ireland have lost almost €120,000 (£105,000) in so-called romance scams in a fortnight.
In both cases they had been befriended by men online, embarking on romances with them before being duped into sending them money. The PSNI believe such scams are extremely under-reported as people are too embarrassed to tell police they have been duped in this way.
In one of the two cases, a woman in County Antrim had been in touch with a man who claimed he was in the US Army. His social profiles seemed to match his story, so she believed what he said, and the woman ended up sending him £65,000 (€74,000).
The second involved a lady in County Down who had been in touch with a man for months who said he was an engineer living in America. She sent him £40,000 (€45,500).
“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,” said Chief Superintendent Simon Walls.
What’s more, because the women gave the money willingly, they have no hope of getting it back. "Sadly, for these two women they will not get their money back as they gave it to the fraudsters voluntarily,” Chief Superintendent Walls said.
While undoubtedly online romances can be genuine, and lead to happy relationships, there are things to be mindful of. Police advise protecting yourself if you’re dating online, and offer some things to keep in mind:
- 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.