Gardaí warn public to be wary of romance fraud as scams increase

Although today, Valentine’s Day, is signalled to be the most romantic day of the year, Gardaí are warning the public to be cautious when it comes to love.

An Garda Síochána has launched an awareness campaign in honour of February 14, which notes that over €7 million has been stolen through romance fraud in the last five years.

These scams typically occur through dating apps and sites, where fraudsters will use someone else’s photos to set up a fake profile. They will then identify potential victims, and groom them in an attempt to steal their money.

Victims usually fall for these scams as the fake profile often showcases a person who was married and is now widowed or divorced. They often state that they have a responsible job, but one that means that they cannot travel often.

Although their requests for money might start small, the scammer will slowly begin to increase the amounts, to the point where you may be asked to pay for flights or medical bills.

Of the 245 victims that have contacted Gardaí since 2020, the majority were female, with an average loss of €28,500. The highest loss recorded by a woman was for over €450,000, while one male victim had more than €380,000 taken.

Speaking about the rise in romance fraud, Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau stated: "It becomes a huge invasion of privacy and a breach of trust which can impact your whole view of people and the possibility of romance, but it’s important to remember that this fraud and it is a crime.”

Amongst their advice to avoid love scams, Gardaí are asking the public to only use reputable dating apps and websites, with their own message boards. If you become suspicious about your match, you can do some investigating of your own, such as using Google Reverse Image Search to make sure their profile picture is legitimate, and being careful of giving them personal information, such as your address or bank details.

If you become a victim of fraud, do not hesitate to contact your nearest Garda station.