You may have read recent news about 19 New Zealand ‘daters’ who have lost an almost unbelievable $7.9 million in so-called “romance scams” in the first three months of this year alone.
The fact that such a huge amount of money could be lost shows several things – the naivete of those seeking love online, but also the sheer ruthlessness of those who seek to exploit those seeking partners online via dating sites.
The report on Stuff reported Netsafe director of technology Sean Lyons saying some of the victims to these dating ripoffs had lost more than $1 million.
He pointed out that in half the cases Western Union was used to transfer the funds.
Western Union agreed to establish a US$586m (NZ$$849m) compensation fund last year to settle an investigation by the United States Federal Trade Commission, the US Justice Department (DOJ) and the US Postal Inspection Service.
And with tightened practices by companies like Western Union there were more safeguards available to those transferring significant amounts of money overseas.
Avoiding Online Dating Scams
Some steps that can be taken to avoid these scams are immediately apparent –
- Before transferring any funds overseas ask yourself some basic questions. Could it be a scam, and have you ever met the person seeking the funds face-to-face (in most cases the answer will be ‘No’). Remember that scammers will play to your weaknesses, particularly after engaging you in online conversation and making the connection.
- They will frequently try and move the communications to another platform, which will avoid the website (if it’s any good and doing this sort of thing) from identifying the potential risk. They will be seeking to move you to email, a chatroom or forum or some kind. They will often try to isolate you from family or other influences
- Is their English any good or are there discrepancies. The scammers will frequently be from countries where English is a second language.
- Do they excessively flatter you? A clear manipulative technique and also accompanied often by an image of a dreamy guy or girl. Frequently the age difference between them and yourself will also be significant.
- Are they providing lengthy ‘back stories’ about themselves? This is to gain trust and to build sympathy for the coming ‘hit’. Take care when they explain their hardships and for what follows, which will generally be – ‘the Ask’
- Are they asking you to do something? This is a tester to gain trust and to ascertain whether you’re someone who will be likely to ultimately provide the financial ‘help’ required. It is usually something very simple, but it’s an important part of the scammer’s arsenal of manipulative weapons.
- What is their ‘help request’? It will frequently be something like a medical emergency or some such event, often involving family issues, kidnappings or some other drama.
Most of all, use your common sense and be aware of any of the date scammers’ red flag warning signs that may lead to major financial loss. Don’t be one of the kiwi online dating victim scams.