Attribute to Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Allan, Auckland City District Financial Crime Unit:
Millions of dollars a year are being swiped by scammers taking advantage of those looking for love online.
NZ Police are receiving a consistent stream of reports from people who have been scammed by a ‘person’ they have met online via either a dating website or a dating app.
Those who carry out romance scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring, and believable. Unfortunately, they are present on most dating platforms.
We’re aware of a repeat pattern of events across all reports, where the scammer typically moves the conversation from a reputable dating site to WhatsApp and quickly professes their love and admiration for the victim, before revealing they are a wealthy businessman or military staff who are based overseas. Once trust has been gained they request financial assistance from the target.
The method of payment request depends on the proficiency of the victim.
If the victim is able to open a cryptocurrency account, then buying and sending cryptocurrency preferred method of transmission.
However, sending cash or making a bank transfer offshore via a money remitter, transferring funds to a bank account of someone else that is being scammed, or handing cash to a money laundering cryptocurrency trader, are other potential ways a scammer will ask the victim to provide them with funds.
Our investigations indicate that those who perpetrate these romance scams are predominantly based offshore.
They are typically organised criminal networks who are scamming multiple victims at once.
To keep their story on-track when engaging with multiple people, they use the same profile. Police often see the same photo used over and over again, with a different generic name, pedalling a similar story about their fraudulent background.
We have repeatedly seen the same stolen image used on doctored New Zealand Drivers Licences, such as the one attached.
We are advising everyone to be wary of any online approaches where something might seem amiss.
Some red flags to be aware of:
- People who always have excuses about why they can’t meet you in person or even video call.
- Those who are often in a hard to reach place (e.g. working on oil rigs, in the military, working overseas).
- People who seem to always have a sob story (e.g. a child or family member is sick), and there's always a degree of urgency.
We advise those looking for love online to be wary of who you are speaking to:
- Be careful what you post and make public on the internet. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Note if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
If you believe you are the victim of a scam you can contact Police and report the matter via 105.
Visit consumerprotection.govt.nz/general-help/scamwatch/ for more information on how you can prevent yourself, family and friends from being scammed.
Anna Thompson/NZ Police