Belfast Telegraph

Romance scam Northern Ireland women defrauded of £105k

By Mark Edwards

Police have issued a warning after two women from Northern Ireland lost a total of £105,000 in romance scams.

In both of the cases, reported to police in the last fortnight, the women were tricked by fraudsters they had been befriended by online who duped them into sending substantial sums of money.

The first report, made to police on Monday February 4, involved a woman from Antrim who had been befriended by a man online claiming to be in the US Army.

The pair were in touch for around a month before things took a romantic turn.

From May last year, the man told the woman a number of stories, including that he was being detained by authorities in Africa in a bid to get her to give him money. The woman believed the man's stories, and was conned into sending him £65,000. Police said the woman truly believed this man was genuine as she had found a profile online that matched his details.

The second report, involving a woman in North Down, was reported to police on February 10. The woman had entered into an online relationship with a man claiming to live in the USA where he worked as an engineer. They had been in touch since November and the man eventually asked the woman for money for projects.

She trusted the man and believed his story, and sent him payments totalling £40,000.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said: "Sadly, for these two women they will not get their money back as they gave it to the fraudsters voluntarily. 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. Unfortunately, there is no end to the methods fraudsters will use to dupe people into giving them money.

"Romance scammers don’t prey on a specific gender, sexuality, race or age. They target everyone, just don’t let it be you. Don’t let yourself become a statistic. Protect yourself if you want to use the internet in search of love or companionship. 

"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.

“If you want to buy that something special for someone on Valentine’s Day, make sure you shop from reputable websites and that you keep your details safe. There will be lots of enticing offers so think smart and stay scam wise."

Mr Walls said between January 1 and 30th September last year there were a total of 39 reports relating to dating scams in Northern Ireland when more than £218,000 was scammed from people. Police believe that this figure could be much higher with many people too embarrassed to report the scams.

If you have been targeted in this way report it to Action Fraud via their website www.actionfraud.police.uk or by phoning 0300 123 2040, or call police on the non-emergency number 101.

Further advice and information can also be obtained by visiting www.nidirect.gov.uk/scamwiseni or the ScamwiseNI Facebook page @scamwiseni

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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