NZ: Romance scam victims lose tens of millions

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Catfished: Love scammers stealing tens of millions of dollars from Kiwis - NZ Herald

Catfished: Love scammers stealing tens of millions of dollars from Kiwis​

14 Feb, 2021

Romance scammers are swiping tens of millions of dollars from Kiwis each year - and police say the online love rats show no signs of relenting this Valentine's Day.

Police fraud experts say the catfishing con artists not only conceal their true identities, but might be disguising money-laundering and other serious criminal offending.

Detective Superintendent Iain Chapman, police Financial Crime Group national manager, said some scammers were targeting the lonely and the elderly.

But he said people from all walks of life were at risk and love scammers were constantly changing tactics and even exploiting the Covid-19 pandemic.

One New Zealander reported losing $840,000 in a romance scam last year.

"Many Kiwis have been scammed by fake love interests, and some are unwittingly helping very convincing online sweethearts fund criminal activity," Chapman said.

Recently, police fielded reports of usually elderly people asking bank tellers for advice on how to use bitcoin cyptocurrency.

Another recent trend involved victims being told to buy large quantities of iTunes gift vouchers.

Generally, scammers used email, social media, dating websites and other websites and apps to build fake relationships and get their targets to hand over money.

In a phenomenon known as catfishing, the scammers posed with photos and identities of other people.