Overseas criminal networks behind bulk of Kiwi dating scams | #whatsapp | #lovescams | #phonescams

Police say criminal networks based overseas are behind the bulk of dating scams, in which Kiwis are being conned out of millions of dollars a year.

They say they’re seeing repeat patterns in which a prospective love interest dupes those they’re in contact with into parting with large amounts of money.

This involves scammers quickly moving conversations off dating sites to the messaging service WhatsApp and then professing their love and admiration for the victim.

They then reveal they’re a wealthy businessperson or military staff who are based overseas and once they’ve gained a person’s trust, request financial assistance.

Police say that if a victim is able to open a cryptocurrency account, then this is the preferred method of financial transaction.

However, there are other ways scammers will request money based on their victim’s proficiency.

These include sending cash or making a bank transfer offshore via a money remitter; transferring funds to a bank account of someone else that is being scammed; or handing cash to a money laundering cryptocurrency trader.

Police say that in order to keep their story on-track while engaging with multiple people, scammers will use the same profile and have repeatedly used the same stolen image used on doctored drivers’ licences.

An example of a doctored driver's licence being used in online dating scams.

Police say people can research a person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if it’s being used elsewhere.

They’re urging online daters to be careful of what they make public on the internet because details shared on social media and dating sites can be used to better understand and target people.

READ MORE: ‘Devastating’ internet romance scams soar by nearly 40% in New Zealand, Netsafe warns

People should be wary of those who make repeated excuses for why they can’t meet in person or video call, as well as those who are often in a hard-to-reach places.

Online daters are also asked to look out for those who always have a “sob story”, such as a sick child or family member, in which there’s always a degree of urgency.

Anyone on a dating site who attempts to isolate a person from their friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information should be treated with suspicion.

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