Looking for love? Beware of romance scams
There’s plenty of fish in the sea, but some are trying to steal your money.
Kiwis are losing millions of dollars a year to romance scams, with Netsafe reporting the average loss per victim is $18,667.
Our podcast producer spoke with a woman in Auckland last year who lost a whopping $100,000 to a scammer she met via a dating app.
There is a lot of shame and embarrassment felt by victims. This typically aids scammers because people are too ashamed to talk about being scammed, and so fewer reports are made.
“If people did fall for a scam, reassure them that they’re not dumb for falling for a scam like this. These people are really manipulative … they know what they’re doing … they know how to take advantage of you. Obviously, I didn’t think I’d ever fall for a scam like that!” the woman told Consumer.
How to avoid romance scams
- Be cautious about who you communicate with online.
- Don’t respond to requests or hints for money.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know or haven’t met in person.
- Avoid giving out personal details that could be used to impersonate you.
- If you think you’re being scammed, stop all contact and avoid sending further payments.
- Contact Netsafe for free and confidential advice if you feel something isn’t quite right.
How to check whether the profile pic is legit
Romance scammers often steal photos published online and use these identities to approach people. Photos of models and uniformed soldiers are popular; however, photos can be taken from anyone who publishes them publicly online – for example, from Facebook profiles. If you’re suspicious about a new contact there is an easy way to see where their photo is being used on the web, by performing a reverse image search using Google Images.
How to reverse image search
- Download a copy of the photo of the person.
- Go to Google Image search and upload the photo.
- Google will return a list of results showing where the picture is being used on the internet.
You may want to reverse image search using more than one image of the person. Remember this is not a fail-safe way to detect romance scams, but it is a useful tool as many scammers will take these photos offline. They’ll also often use the same image in more than one scam they are running.
If you’ve been scammed
Many of these scams are professional operations and these people are very good at their job, so the important thing is not to feel embarrassed and to reach out for advice. If you believe that you have been or may have been scammed, you can contact Netsafe for free and confidential advice on what to do next.
You can report the incident to the police, but it is possible the scammer is operating from a country overseas. If you’ve sent money offshore (via a money transfer service) it is unlikely these funds will be recovered or the offender(s) identified, as cyber criminals are very proficient at concealing their identities and often reside in countries that lack reliable law enforcement for NZ Police to liaise with.
Where to report offending:
New Zealand Police
- 105 (non-Emergency)
- 111 (Emergency)
You can contact NetSafe seven days a week for free and confidential help and advice.