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  1. ITV Report

NI woman scammed out of more than £300,000 in 'devastating' romance scam

The PSNI says more than £1.6m has been stolen from victims in Northern Ireland in a variety of scams between November and May. Credit: PA

A woman from Northern Ireland has been scammed out of more than £300,000 in what police have described as one of the biggest romance frauds they have seen.

The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, was targeted by the man online three years ago and she believed a relationship had developed.

After three months, the scammer asked her to send him money for his children to be educated in England and later asked for money in relation to investing in both Ghana and Dubai.

In total, she sent more than £300,000 to different accounts at his request.

PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said it is unclear where the scammer is from, and believes he may be moving around internationally.

Chief Superintendent Simon Walls believes so called romance scams are significantly under reported. Credit: PSNI

Mr Walls said the woman has been left devastated by the elaborate deception.

"Inquiries are ongoing into this fraud which has, understandably, had a devastating impact on the victim," he said.

"However, this is one of the bigger scams where a victim has been swindled out of such a significant amount of money.

"Sadly, we received another report recently where a similar amount of money was lost in a scam."

We receive reports of fraud on a regular basis and, no matter how big or small the amount of money is that a victim loses, every loss is felt by those targeted.

– PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls

In total, more than £1.6m was stolen from victims in Northern Ireland in a variety of scams that are known about between November and May.

February saw the most incidents, with 253 scams reported to the PSNI. Of those, 16 were by fraudsters calling at their victims' doors, 71 scams were conducted on the internet, six by post and 160 by phone.

Mr Walls said romance scams are not the most common type reported to police, but they are more personally hurtful to victims.

"We have fewer romance scams than the HMRC scams, fewer than scams involving broadband and probably fewer than TV licensing scams, but it has that added dimension that as well as someone's bank account being emptied, their heart is being broken," he said.

The senior officer said he believes romance scams are significantly under reported.

"We think many people are simply too embarrassed to tell us they have been scammed in a romance fraud," he said.

"I would make a really heartfelt plea to people if they are reading this story, if they think they are being scammed, even if they have a suspicion of being scammed, please come forward, speak to police”.

  • If you have concerns about calls or emails you have received, you can report it to Action Fraud or call police on the non-emergency number 101.