No Love Lost on Online Dating Scams

Attribution to Senior Detective Sergeant Chris Allan, Auckland District Financial Crime Unit:

Millions of dollars a year are embezzled by scammers who take advantage of those looking for love online.

New Zealand Police are receiving a steady stream of reports from people who have been scammed by a “person” they met online through a dating site or dating app.

Those who commit romance scams are experts at what they do and will come across as genuine, caring, and believable. Unfortunately, they are present on most dating platforms.

We are aware of a repeated pattern of events in all reports, where the scammer typically moves the conversation from a reputable dating site to WhatsApp and quickly professes his love and admiration for the victim, before revealing that he is a wealthy businessman or a military man who is based abroad. Once the trust is gained, they request financial assistance from the target.

The method of requesting payment depends on the skill of the victim.

If the victim is able to open a cryptocurrency account, buying and sending the preferred cryptocurrency transmission method.

However, sending money or making a bank transfer overseas through a money sender, transferring funds to another scammed person’s bank account, or handing over money to a merchant from cryptocurrency money laundering are other potential ways for a scammer to trick the victim into providing them with funds.

Our investigations indicate that those who commit these romance scams are primarily based overseas.

These are usually organized criminal networks that defraud multiple victims at once.

To keep their story on track when interacting with multiple people, they use the same profile. Police often see the same photo used over and over again, with a different generic name, pedaling a similar story about their fraudulent background.

We have repeatedly seen the same stolen image used on forged New Zealand driving licenses, like the one attached.

We advise everyone to be wary of any online approach where something might seem off.

Some red flags to be aware of:
– People who always have excuses as to why they can’t meet you in person or even via video call.
– Those who are often in a hard-to-reach place (eg working on oil rigs, in the military, working abroad).
– People who always seem to have a bloody history (for example, a child or a family member is sick), and there is always a degree of urgency.

We advise those looking for love online to be wary of who you are talking to:
– Be careful what you publish and make public on the Internet. Scammers can use information shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
– Find the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or details have been used elsewhere.
– Be suspicious if the person seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
– Note if the person tries to isolate you from friends and family or asks for inappropriate photos or financial information that could then be used to extort you.

If you think you have been scammed, you can contact the police and report the matter via 105.

Visit consumerprotection.govt.nz/general-help/scamwatch/ for more information on how you can prevent yourself, your family and friends from being scammed.

ENDS.

Anna Thompson/New Zealand Police

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