Police are warning people who are online dating about a scam that at least five women have unknowingly found themselves involved in.
North Shore Police are investigating eleven cases where five women who were members of online dating sites have met men based overseas and have been tricked into firstly having goods delivered to their homes and then arranging to send the good overseas. The women have posted the goods to an address in Ghana, but the items have actually been purchased using stolen credit cards and the women do not hear from their so-called suitors again.
Police have spoken with the 5 women, who are located in Christchurch, Nelson, Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland, and are satisfied that the women have not knowingly assisted the men, but say there may be others who don't realise what they are doing is taking part in a crime.
The scam works the following way;
-The woman is a member of an international online dating site, such as catholicdating.com, christiandating.com or tagged.com
-A man who is also signed up on the website gets in touch and starts chatting online with the woman. In many cases he says he is from Germany. After several weeks of online conversations he asks if he can have some items delivered to the woman's house, and if she can then send them onto him overseas.
-The so-called 'suitor' says he needs the items for his business in Germany and that it is cheaper to send them via Ghana/or that he is a Missionary. He then sends a shipping document to the woman, so that she doesn't have to pay anything to ship the goods.
-A number of items bought online from New Zealand retailers are then delivered to the woman's house, such as stereos, tv's, workboots and Fossil watches. The items have actually been purchased with stolen credit card details.
-The woman sends the goods overseas and does not hear from the man again.
"We believe that the online persona does not actually exist and criminals overseas are making fake profiles to do this. In one case the woman spoke to the man on Skype but he said his web camera wasn't working. Though it sounds very dubious when we describe it, the men have actually been quite convincing and the woman have been understandably quite upset and embarassed when they realise they have been tricked" says Constable Grant Kenny, North Shore Police.
Police were made aware of the scam after a credit card holder disputed the transaction with the bank and the retailer was advised that the purchase used a stolen credit card. The majority of the stolen credit card details have been obtained overseas.
"We'll be liasing with Interpol on this, but we want to warn any other unsuspecting person who is asked by a stranger online to send items overseas to be very careful. It's also a warning to retailers to be wary about large online orders going to a residential address. In one case a retailer delivered 5 home entertainment systems to a residential address and the transaction was later found to be made using a stolen credit card" says Constable Kenny.
Issued by Beth Bates/Waitemata Police