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romance fraud Heartless fraudster 'bought car with €28k she stole from OAP' in dating website scam

The elderly victim is said to be "relieved" that officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) have now made two arrests in the case

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Online love scams increased as lockdown kept people at home

Online love scams increased as lockdown kept people at home

Online love scams increased as lockdown kept people at home

A Leinster-based OAP aged in his mid-80s was the victim of a sinister romance fraud that led him to lose €28,000 after he engaged with a woman on a dating website.

The elderly victim is said to be "relieved" that officers from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) have now made two arrests in the case.

He was fooled into giving over the large sum of money in what is described as a so-called "inheritance scam", in which he was lured into sending money so that he could retrieve a bigger sum.

However, none of the money that was stolen from him has been recovered.

The 47-year-old woman who is suspected of being the organiser of the heartless scam is understood to have bought herself a car with the proceeds of the crime.

The woman was arrested in north Dublin yesterday in a planned operation by the GNECB, which suspected that more than €24,000 from the elaborate fraud ended up in her bank account.

She is being detained at Finglas garda station, is being questioned under anti-gangland legislation and the car has been seized by gardaí.

The suspect is understood to have been the person who engaged with the victim under a fake name on the dating website last August.

Her detention follows the arrest of a 23-year-old suspected money mule in Tipperary town last Thursday who is believed to have allowed his bank account to be used to store €3,000 of the cash.

"This young man comes from a very respectable family in the locality," a senior source said.

"But like hundreds of other young people across the country, he allowed his bank account to be used by an organised criminal gang.

"The legal consequences of this can be very severe if you are caught."

During the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns, which has led to criminals increasing their attempts to target vulnerable people in romance frauds, gardaí have seen a 38pc increase in this type of crime.

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Historically, it appeared that older women were falling victim to this type of crime.

But the profile is changing with more males coming forward.

"The traditional problem with this type of crime is that victims would often be too embarrassed to report it to gardaí," a source said.

"So the belief is that the number of victims out there is higher than many people might think."

The scammers - who operate online - convince their victims that they have met their perfect match, and often use a fake profile to build up a relationship.

They gradually gain the victim's trust over time, with a view to eventually ­asking them for money.

Gardaí also say romance fraudsters will often attempt to quickly move to communicate away from dating websites and ask a lot of personal questions while avoiding personal questions about themselves.

They will also try to establish a bond quickly, but present obstacles and make excuses to avoid meeting in person.

The scammers may mention money problems in the hope that potential ­victims offer to help.

In 2020 alone, 200 cases were reported to gardaí, while known victims were both men and women from all age groups.

The average amount of money lost was in excess of €20,000.

Gardaí warned that the Covid-19 regulations and travel restrictions have resulted in reduced social gatherings and as a result, is generating opportunities for scammers to engage in online romance fraud.

Gardaí announced details of the alleged crime: "It was established that a man based in the east of the country, was defrauded €28,000 on a dating website. The money was laundered through the accounts of two persons based in Tipperary and Dublin."

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