Recently a number of New Zealanders have been manipulated and defrauded by persons abroad professing romantic interest and marriage intentions over the internet. Awareness is the key. If you have not met someone personally, you should not respond to their requests for money (regardless of how desperate their circumstances appear).
Internet dating scams typically result from connections made through internet dating websites or chat rooms. Via the internet the offender will attempt to form an emotional bond with you. An offender may go to great lengths to gain your trust, sharing their ‘personal information’ and even sending you gifts.
Once a bond has been established the offender will typically ask you for money or ask you to undertake a task. Often the task is illegal, although this may not be immediately obvious. Scams have evolved considerably in recent years. Pretexts used to elicit money have included kidnapping and urgent requests for money to cover medical expenses. Other pretexts used have included requests to transport items across international borders.
Once money has been transferred overseas the chance of recovering the funds is highly unlikely. If you commit an illegal act at the behest of another person, knowingly or otherwise, you may be held personally responsible in New Zealand or abroad.
Internet romance scams usually involve one or more of the following indicators:
- You’ve met online – through an internet dating site or chat room.
- The scammer professes romantic interest and marriage intentions very early on in the relationship.
- Photos the scammer sends you show a very attractive person and the photos look like they have been taken by a professional photographer.
- You have never met the scammer in person but may have had a number of phone calls with them.
- The scammer is often evasive about providing personal details that could lead to the discovery they are not who they claim to be – conflicting information is often provided around their nationality or the passport they are travelling on.
- The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service (usually when they are overseas). They may attempt to show you they have funds in a foreign bank account they are temporarily unable to access and your funds are only needed until they can repay you.
- The scammer appears to have incredibly bad luck – having a car crash on the way to the airport to fly to New Zealand, getting arrested over a misunderstanding, being mugged/beaten/hospitalised, has a family member (often a child) who is very sick or has been in an accident.
For more information on internet dating scams visit the Consumer Affairs website.