Thirty-one cases of romance fraud have been reported to gardaí this year, costing the victims more than €800,000.
All cases except one, reported between January 2022 to the end of May 2022, occurred after the victims met the suspect over a dating app or through social media.
Gardaí are urging the public to be aware of romance fraud as they continue to investigate a large number of money laundering offences.
In September 2021, gardaí received a request for assistance from the Hungarian Police through Interpol, who were investigating a case of romance fraud where a female was deceived into sending $4,000 to a fraudulent account.
Investigations by the Hungarian Police identified that the money was credited to an Irish bank account.
The Garda National Economic Crime Bureau identified the account holder found that between September 2020 and October 2021, there were 46 suspicious credits into this bank account from 12 different people in eight different EU countries, including Germany, Croatia, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Poland and the UK.
The total amount credited in this 12-month period was €109,880.28.
The victims who credited the money consisted of 11 females and one male.
Gardaí say once the credit is made to the account, the funds are immediately withdrawn in cash, transferred electronically and used in point of sale transactions in successive days leaving very little in the account until the next credit is made.
It is suspected that each of the 12 people who credited money to his account are the victims of romance fraud.
The holder of this account was arrested this year in June 2022 and the investigation continues.
Online dating sites
Gardaí said: “This particular fraud is enabled via online dating sites or other social media by fraudsters who will provide the victims with well-prepared stories designed to deceive.
“The victims develop online relationships with the fraudsters who use fake identities, photographs and life stories. Inevitably, the fraudster will ask their victim for money. The fraudster will continue to ask for money until the victim has no more money to give or realise they are being deceived.”
Out of the 31 cases of romance fraud reported to the gardaí this year, 23 were female and eight were men, with a total loss of €812,715 reported.
The average age of female victims is 44 years of age, while the average age for men is 47 years.
The youngest victim was 27 years of age and the oldest was 69 years of age.
Gardaí are urging the public to contact the gardaí if they feel they have been victim to romance fraud, and to contact their bank immediately.