Sarah met her partner online through Facebook. They chatted for a number of months and the relationship grew over that time. Her partner was based in the Middle East and they decided together it was time to move the relationship to the next step. He was going to move to Ireland and they could be together properly. The relationship had been online initially and then moved to texts and phone calls.
He gave his flights details, times of arrival, connections etc to Sarah. He had already sent his belongings on a few weeks previous and they would be arriving to Ireland shortly. Later that day Sarah received a phone call from customs in Ireland to say the belongings had arrived but that the customs had been underpaid and would need to be paid immediately to release them for delivery. If it wasn’t paid the items would be returned. They had tried contacting her partner, but Sarah knew why they couldn’t get in touch, sure he was mid air on his way to Ireland. Sarah was advised to pay the customs via transfer as it was instant and given the bank details to do so. She paid almost €4000.
The next day when her partners connecting flight was due, Sarah happened to tell a family member about the stress of getting the payment over to customs. It was only then that the family member convinced her to contact the bank and the Gardai. Initially she declined but when her partner never showed she realised she had fallen victim. Even when she reported it she still didn’t believe it was true and that there was some misunderstanding.
The bank attempted to recall the payment but the money had already been moved and they were unsuccessful. Upon further investigation they discovered several smaller payments had been made over the months of the relationship for minor things e.g. Amazon gift cards, Itunes vouchers and that kind of thing. The requests never came directly from the fraudster however seeds had been planted over the months and Sarah had done them as anyone in a relationship would.
- Be careful what you share on social media and online dating websites. Do not reveal full name or home address. Protect your identity.
- Be wary of anyone asking lots of questions about you but not revealing much about themselves.
- Use a reputable dating site and use their messaging service. Do not move to social media or texting too quickly.
- Never send money or give your bank details to somebody you have never met, no matter how much you believe and trust them.
- Do not purchase flights, or VISAs or pay customs fees for them to visit you.
- Remember that anyone can pretend to be anyone they want to be online. You should google an image to see if it comes up on several sites or profiles.
- Never provide copies of your personal documents such as passports or driving licenses.
- If you think you have fallen victim contact your bank immediately, the quicker you act the better chance of recouping any lost funds.