A woman has been conned out of most of her life savings in what turned out to be a bogus gold deal.
The unsuspecting victim parted with tens of thousands of pounds worth of money to an online scammer who promised her a cut of a gold deal.
The money was paid out over an extended period of time and amounted to most of her life savings, a senior police officer has revealed.
PSNI Chief Superintendent Simon Walls said the scam was part of a recent flurry that have used Facebook and Google Hangouts to target people in the north.
“The consequence for that person is they have lost tens of thousands of pounds,” he said.
The scammers reach out, befriending people, and after cultivating a relationship, they ultimately ask their targets to invest in their attempt to move either diamonds or gold out of a foreign country, with the promise of a percentage of the haul’s value.
Mr Walls said the local victim felt she had developed a real friendship with the criminal.
“In this case the money was provided over a period of time. We are talking about significant amounts of money,” said the chief superintendent.
“This person lost most of their life savings.
“So many of us are online, so many have social media apps on our phone, so many are comfortable with that type of interaction with people.
“It’s communication with people from a distance and at a distance and this is the way this is happening.”
Mr Walls urged people to adopt a “healthy paranoia” with any unsolicited approach.
“If you don’t engage, if you don’t get drawn in, you are not going to lose your savings, you are not going to have your account compromised and go through the trauma of all that,” he said.
Mr Walls said other recent phishing scams reported in Northern Ireland include bogus emails purporting to be from Apple, as well as retailer Banana Republic.
He added that the fact that there has been “no let-up” in the amount of scams doing the rounds.
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