Kiwis are losing millions of dollars a year to romance scams, according to the police’s financial crime unit.
Detective Senior Sergeant Chris Allan says they’re receiving a “consistent stream” of reports from people who have been scammed by a potential love interest they met online or via a dating app.
Allan says the scam usually begins with a match on a reputable dating site, and the scammer then moves the conversation to WhatsApp.
From here, they have a story about being a wealthy businessman or military staff based overseas – once trust has been gained, they request money from their victim.
Often, they prefer cryptocurrency but sending cash or requesting a bank transfer is also common.
Allan says an investigation into the scams indicates they are usually run by an organised crime group based offshore and are scamming multiple people 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, pedaling a similar story about their fraudulent background.:
The same image has been seen over and over, doctored on to a fake New Zealand driver’s licence.
Allan says the scams often have common red flags to watch out for – they will frequently claim to be working somewhere hard to contact, such as an oil rig or in the military, and there will always be a sob story – perhaps their child is sick, or their mother.
These sob stories come with a side of urgency – they need money as soon as possible.
People should be cautious if someone they’re talking to online is reluctant to meet in person, or video call.
If you’re looking for love online, Allan says it’s important to be careful about what you post online, as scammers can view these details and use them to extort you.
Anyone who thinks they may be the victim of a scam should call police on 105.
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