Warning of Northern Irish 'Tinder Swindler' after 80 cases reported last year
One woman in Belfast was scammed out of £130,000.
When you watch The Tinder Swindler, it's very easy to imagine these scams happening somewhere else.
Hayut's scams and schemes happen all across these beautiful exotic locations, with the victims hopping on flight to flight to either help or hinder their "boyfriend".
The documentary has exploded in popularity, with the Swindler himself being banned from Tinder, and the three victims featured putting together a GoFundMe to assist in their ongoing debt payments.
Unfortunately, however, it seems there are a few Swindlers hiding out much closer to home than you would expect.
The PSNI are warning people to be on the lookout for scammers that are hoping to take advantage of vulnerable people using dating apps.
“Unfortunately, in 2021, 80 incidents of romance scams were reported to police and one female from the Greater Belfast area was deceived out of over £130,000 in April 2021," said Superintendent Gerard Pollock, Chair of the ScamwiseNI Partnership.
“This is a heart-breaking statistic, but it is also a personal story of a female who has had their life ruined by someone they grew to trust and build a relationship with.
"That’s why we know this crime is unreported, with victims sometimes too embarrassed to report it to police.
“Fraudsters will seek to build a relationship quickly and try to get you to chat or text away from the dating site or app you first met them on.
"This allows them to keep in contact if their profile is deleted for being fake.
“They appear very interested in you, very quickly, but will have lots of excuses for not being able to meet in person, a family emergency or a work problem that’s just come up.
“Soon they will ask you for money to help them sort out their problems or to help them come meet you, perhaps to pay for travel, all the while assuring you it will be paid back to you.
"You will continually be reassured it’s just this one thing, just this amount and then they’ll be able to come meet you.
“However, they have no intention of doing so because they do not exist. All they wanted was your money and to get as much of it as possible," he added.
Pollock shared tips on how to protect yourself while using dating apps.
- Stay on the app - Always keep communication on the dating website or app you’re using. Many have inbuilt security and assistance. They also take steps to remove and ban fake accounts so you’re safer there.
- Check their socials - Carry out your own research on the person, checking their social media presence to see if it matches what’s on the dating site. Looking at key details such as name, location and family members can help identify inconsistencies in what you have been told.
- Check their photo - Profile pictures can be deceiving and be taken from anywhere on the internet. You can use various websites to check photos using a reverse image search to prove if the photo is valid.
- Never ever send money to someone you haven’t met in person – If you’re looking for friendship, companionship or love online it should never start with being asked for money, and if it does it’s not a friends or relationship worth having.
“Romance scammers don’t care about your gender, sexuality, age or race," Pollock said.
"They target everyone, please don’t let it be you.
“Always remember to stay on site, using reputable dating ones.
"Never send money to someone you have not met or receive/transfer money on their behalf.
"Be alert, keep yourself safe.”