The victim of a romance scam bought $80,000 for someone posing as an eligible bachelor.
A woman who circumvented protections put in place by her bank after she fell victim to a romance scam, has lost a bid for compensation after she was conned for a second time.
The woman complained to the Banking Ombudsman that her bank, which is not named, should have stopped her from buying $80,000 of cryptocurrency, and sending it overseas to scammers posing as an eligible bachelor.
But banking ombudsman Nicola Sladden said her decision to put money in cryptocurrencies was not a “red flag” that she was being scammed.
Sladden said it was now common for people to speculate by using some of their money to buy cryptocurrency.
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A survey from the Financial Markets Authority Te Mana Tātai Hokohoko last year indicated one in 10 people owned some cryptocurrency.
However, because the bank was so slow to respond to her when she told it she had been scammed, it offered her compensation of $2000, which she accepted.
Sladden said the woman was first duped by someone posing as an oil industry worker in temporary need of funds in 2020.
After she sent money overseas, and it became clear she had been scammed, the bank put in place a block on the woman transferring money overseas.
But a few months later, the woman was again conned in another romance scam, which Sladden said was strikingly similar to the earlier scam.
As the woman could no longer make international money transfers, the scammer convinced her to transfer funds via a New Zealand-based cryptocurrency trader.
The scammers then started to use her as a money mule, asking her to transfer money they deposited into her account.
Sladden said the woman became uncomfortable with this, and realised about a year later that she had been scammed.
The woman reported the scam, but the bank in Sladden’s case note on the complaint, did not respond.
“She contacted us and said the bank ought to have detected the scam, particularly given she had broken her term deposit and had been a scam victim before,” Sladden said.
But Sladden said the fact the bank had not suspected a scam did not mean its fraud detection systems had failed.
When the woman called to break her term deposit, the bank didn’t ask why she wanted to do so, Sladden said.
“But it wasn’t required to ask, and there was nothing to indicate during the call, that the woman was caught up in a scam,” she said.
“Customers are responsible for payments they have authorised, even if tricked by a scammer into making them,” she said.
However, if there was a red flag that would indicate to a bank that a customer was being scammed, it was obligated to investigate.
That could include someone trying to transfer their life savings overseas, she said.
Sladden said the bank did try to recover some of the money the woman lost, but the chances of recovering the funds were very low because funds transferred through cryptocurrency platforms were often withdrawn or converted immediately.
It had been a year since the woman had bought the cryptocurrency, and transferred it.
Sladden considered the bank had failed the woman by not attempting to recall all the transactions, and by failing to handle her fraud report and complaint properly.