Those spurred on by Valentine’s Day to look for love online are being warned about tell-tale signs their potential partner is really a scammer.
The Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment’s Consumer Protection manager Mark Hollingsworth said scammers spend significant time and effort convincing their victims they are also looking for love.
“Once the scammer has a hold, tales about needing financial help will follow. The reasons for needing the financial help vary as scammers are adept at tailoring the lie to suit their target. It could be a medical emergency, a family problem, a legal obligation they need to meet, an employment issue, or even a business opportunity. The list is endless,” Mr Hollingsworth said.
“Often times, the skilled emotional manipulation means the scammer doesn’t even have to ask for money, but the victim is so invested in what is ultimately a fake relationship that they offer it up willingly.”
He encouraged friends and family to not be afraid of having a difficult conversation with a person they care about if they believe they were falling victim to a romance scam.
Last year, New Zealanders reported losing $1.3 million to romance scams.
Consumer Protection offered the following signs to be wary of:
- Never direct-deposit money into the account of a person or business you don’t know. Think twice before sending money to someone you have only recently met and never provide personal account information.
- Be careful about how much personal information you share with strangers.
- If you agree to meet a romantic prospect in person, always tell your family and friends when and where you are going.
- Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer or international funds transfer.
- Be wary about becoming involved with someone who is only contactable by mobile phone, email or social media.
- Scammers prefer to correspond privately to avoid detection, so be cautious if you are asked to move your correspondence off a dating website.
- Complete an image search through Google to ensure the person has not stolen their profile photo.
- Do not share compromising material with anyone, as scammers may use this information as blackmail.
- Be alert to spelling errors, grammatical errors, inconsistencies in stories, and if their camera never works when you want to Skype.