Belfast Telegraph

PSNI warning over 'romance scams' as people are groomed on dating sites and exploited for money

Police have issued a warning over so called "romance scams" where people on online dating sites are targeted, groomed and then exploited for money.

It comes as one man 'John' - who is not using his real name - shared his story of being scammed out of £10,000.

In a similar case a German woman Pissamai Strehle (50) who started an online relationship with a man who said he lived in Newtownabbey, in Co Antrim - was conned out of £130,000.

Read more:

German woman loses £130k in scam by man 'from Northern Ireland' 

John said: "I found what I was thought I was looking for, but then they said their arents were sick or daughter was in hospital, or they had no money for food.

"I said 'OK' and did the decent thing and tried to help them out.

"It snowballed from then and went on and on.

"I was feeling lonely. She turned it to her advantage and I didn't realise until my bank caught this on.

"Because I thought I was doing the right thing but my bank seemed to think I was coming in more and more and taking money out of my account and it was getting beyond a joke.

"I gave her between £8,000 and £10,000.

He added: "I was never suspicious.

"When the bank pulled me to one side and had a meeting with me, I realised that this was actually what was going on."

The PSNI is still investigating the case but say it is unlikely the money will be recovered.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls told the BBC Nolan show: "It is a sad story. The greater sadness is that 'John' is only one of countless people across Northern Ireland who are falling victim to scams in general terms and what we call a "romance scam".

"Typically people are losing about £10,000  - a significant amount of money.

"If you feel you are being scammed put a stop to it now. Speak to police, trading standards, the bank. Lots of people will help you.

"An individual or organised crime gang creates a series of attractive profiles - they draw people in, a sort of grooming relationship starts. As john said then comes the crisis or request for funds - a sick child, I want to see you but can't afford to get there etc.

"At this stage I don't believe the money will be recovered. Many of the scams are taking place far away from Northern Ireland and UK and the money and Internet traffic is bouncing all around the world."

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