Attribute of Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Alan, Auckland County Financial Crimes Division:
Millions of dollars a year scammers take away for the benefit of those who seek love online.
New Zealand Police receive a steady stream of messages from people who have been deceived by the “person” they met online, through a dating website or dating app.
Those who conduct romantic scams are experts in what they do and will seem genuine, caring and believable. Unfortunately, they are present on most dating platforms.
We know that events are repeated in all messages when a scammer usually transfers a conversation from a reputable dating site to WhatsApp and quickly confesses his love and admiration for the victim before revealing that they are a wealthy businessman or military officer based abroad. Once trust has been won, they ask for financial help from the target.
The method of requesting payment depends on the qualifications of the victim.
If the victim can open a cryptocurrency account, then buying and sending cryptocurrencies prefer the method of transfer.
However, sending cash or making an offshore bank transfer through a money sender, transferring funds to someone else’s bank account that is fraudulent, or transferring money to a cryptocurrency money laundering trader are other possible ways a fraudster will ask for a victim provide them with funds.
Our investigations show that those who commit these romantic scams are mostly offshore.
Usually it is organized criminal networks that deceive several victims at once.
To keep their story on track to multiple people, they use the same profile. Police often see that the same photo is used over and over again, with a different common name, twisting a similar story about their fraud.
We have repeatedly seen the same stolen image used in fake New Zealand driver’s licenses, for example, attached.
We advise everyone to be careful with any approaches online where something may seem wrong.
Some red flags you should know:
– People who always justify why they can’t meet you in person or even by video call.
– Those who are often in hard-to-reach places (for example, working on oil rigs, in the army, working abroad).
– People who always seem to have crying stories (such as a child or family member getting sick), and there is always a degree of urgency.
We advise those who are looking for love online to be attentive to who you are talking to:
– Be careful what you publish and publish online. Scammers can use details summarized on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
– Explore a person’s photo and profile using an Internet search to see if an image, name, or detail has been used elsewhere.
– Beware if a person seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social networking site to chat directly.
– Beware if a person tries to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used for extortion.
If you believe you have been a victim of fraud, you can contact the police and report it to 105.
Visit consumerprotection.govt.nz/general-help/scamwatch/ for more information on how you can prevent yourself, family and friends from cheating.
Anna Thompson / New Zealand Police