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Three arrested after woman loses €100k in 'romance fraud'

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Online scams are increasing

Online scams are increasing

Online scams are increasing

A retired woman lost more than €100,000 of savings when she was targeted by an international organised crime gang as part of a heartless "romance fraud".

Three Nigerian nationals, aged 22, 29 and 30, remained in custody last night after they were arrested by fraud squad detectives in planned raids in Blanchardstown, Drogheda and Navan yesterday morning.

Persuaded

Detectives from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) are examining a large number of computers, phones and other devices as part of their investigation.

"At least five victims of this gang have been identified so far, but we would expect that number to greatly increase once the devices have been fully examined," a senior source told the Herald.

The Irish woman who lost her savings was "persuaded to transfer large sums of cash to accounts in Ireland, Turkey, Dubai and Vietnam over a nine-month period, having met with fraudsters online via a dating site", the source said.

"These are criminals who can best be described as professional conmen who groom their victims after first communicating with them on dating websites.

"These suspects are based in Ireland but they are part of a wider global criminal network."

The fraudsters are usually more active at times such as around Valentine's Day, but the coronavirus lockdown earlier this year saw a spike in cases because the gangs were able to target people who were stuck at home feeling lonely and vulnerable.

"This is a novel investigation as the senders of such emails have never been arrested in Ireland before," Detective Superintendent Michael Cryan said.

"To date, the belief would always have been that criminals engaged in this activity are operating outside this jurisdiction.

"This investigation shows that is not always the case.

"It is anticipated that numerous injured parties from all over the world will now be identified.

"We would encourage other victims of this type of fraud to report incidents to local gardaí."

In February, gardaí announced that the GNECB had received more than 75 reports of this kind of fraud last year, with Irish victims being conned out of more than €1m.