Gardai are warning the public to beware of romance fraud this Valentine's Day after revealing that a woman was tricked into handing over €62,000 to a phoney online suitor.
Officers received reports of 75 separate incidents last year, with victims being duped into sending a total of more than €1m to fraudsters.
The con is enabled on online dating sites or social media by scammers who provide the victims with well-prepared stories designed to deceive.
Victims develop online relationships with the fraudsters, who use fake identities, photos and life stories.
The fraudster will then ask for money and continue asking until the victim has no more to give or realises they are being conned.
This crime often leaves vulnerable people broke and broken-hearted as they are left feeling hurt and mistrustful in addition to their financial loss.
In one case, a woman developed a relationship with a man on a dating website.
He gained her trust and she sent him €62,000 over a period of time.
In another case, a victim linked up with a woman in an online chat room and ended up sending her €50,000.
Gardai said there were several warning signs that this type of fraud might be at play.
The scammer will often ask the victim to communicate by instant messaging, text or phone.
They ask for money, beginning with small amounts to pay for travel to meet the victim, to pay an urgent bill or medical expenses or for other spurious reasons.
The fraudster will present reasons for not meeting and may arrange to meet and then cancel, but no meeting will ever take place face to face.
The scammer will avoid personal questions, but will ask plenty and probably ask for money to be transferred to bank accounts abroad or via transfer agencies to places outside of Ireland.
Phone calls from Irish numbers or lodgements to Irish bank accounts do not necessarily prove the person is genuine.
Det Chief Supt Pat Lordan of the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau warned love-seekers to "stop and think" if someone you are in an online relationship with asks you to send money.
"Never share personal or banking details with unknown persons online, never receive money from or send money to persons unknown and think twice before using a webcam - intimate images can be used for blackmail," he said.
He urged people to trust their instincts above all, and if unsure to speak to a family member or a friend.