Sad

March 31st, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Anna Leask at the Herald reports:

A pensioner scammed out of more than $140,000 by a woman he met on a legitimate dating site is ashamed and embarrassed that he was deceived for almost three years.

Police say he is one of thousands of Kiwis being sucked in, and today the man is sharing his story to prevent others being financially and emotionally destroyed.

The elderly man, who spoke to the Herald on the condition his name was not published, is one of an increasing number of people being tricked by romance scammers.

They prey on the emotional vulnerability of lonely or older people and police say they are making phenomenal amounts of money from New Zealand victims.

The man met his scammer after he signed up to a dating website. He said he was very lonely at the time and was desperate for companionship.

A woman who claimed she lived in a small town in West Africa made contact with him.

Sadly that should have been the first danger sign.

As she and the victim became closer, she suggested travelling to meet him in New Zealand. He was thrilled, and although he was hesitant when she asked for money to renew her passport and for flights, he was assured she was genuine because of their “natural” conversations.

Best in that case to pay for the tickets directly. Never ever send cash.

But each time she purportedly set off for New Zealand, something went wrong. She told the man of visa and passport issues and being detained for trying to travel with a large number of gold bars without an export licence. Each time, she needed more cash to get her out of trouble.

That’s a pretty big warning sign. I don’t know anyone who tries to travel with gold bars!

She never came to New Zealand, but kept in constant contact with the victim. He was soon sending her money for her daughter’s school fees, uniform and swimming lessons.

He paid for a new laptop for his “friend” and was sending regular amounts to “maintain her”.

The woman also conned him out of $1000 each week, supposedly to pay a security company to store her gold bars, which she said were worth more than US$28,000 ($32,320).

Gold is around US$1,300 an ounce so that’s around 21.5 ounces or 600 grams of gold. That’s not gold bars. That’s a small slice.

There were times when he questioned the woman or suspected a scam, but each time she would come up with a plausible explanation.

The requests for cash would stop for a time, but as soon as she had his trust again, she would slowly convince him to keep making deposits.

He made the deposits through money-transfer companies, and when he was turned away from one because it was concerned about how often he was sending cash to Africa, he found another service.

Okay now that’s beyond stupid. It’s one thing to be gullible, but another to ignore the fact that even the money transfer company is telling you it is a scam.

Police were alerted to his frequent money transfers and went to see him.

At first, he did not believe what they were telling him. He went online to confront the woman, and she “explained it all”.

After several days going back and forth with the Auckland city fraud squad, he finally realised he had been duped.

Good on the Police for being pro-active, but really sad they had to intervene.

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38 Responses to “Sad”

  1. thor42 (971 comments) says:

    “Police say he is one of thousands of Kiwis being sucked in…”

    And I’ll bet that almost all of them are Labour voters.
    If you’re silly enough to believe that socialism works, you’ll believe *anything*.

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  2. Brian Smaller (4,028 comments) says:

    It is hard to fathom how people can be so gullible.

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  3. mikenmild (11,246 comments) says:

    I shouldn’t expect your sympathy to be echoed in the comments thread, DPF.

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  4. Meatloaf (167 comments) says:

    Warning to the wise. Over the last couple of months ago, I received emails from two Russian girls (who emailed at different times, one before the other), saying they intended on marriage. They both said they had enough money for travel. But at the last minute, they were short. I promised myself before I answered their emails, that if they asked for money that would be it, as it would be clear that’s what they were after. To one of them, I said, let’s just wait till you have enough money saved (as she had a high paying job), and every email she kept on asking for money. So finally I just put a block on her emails. They both claimed they were from a Russian dating site.

    So even though I’m not with any dating site, I still got those emails. So a good rule of thumb for me is don’t send money to anybody unless you’ve met them in person, or they have a real actual store. Will the young understand this, those who grew up after the internet was created?

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  5. iMP (2,345 comments) says:

    It is a cultural default in NZ at present not be “judgmental,” and i saw on TV this week, that “judgmentalism” was being taught as bad. The result: kids today have no discernment. This man’s need for companionship and the pain of loneliness overroad his common sense.

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  6. Manolo (13,517 comments) says:

    It is hard to fathom how people can be so gullible.

    Just ask Griff. :-)

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  7. iMP (2,345 comments) says:

    When I was dating online, I had a lot of fun with these gremlins. I promised them everything, and toyed along playing them at their own game, but never sending the money. I actually ‘played’ one scammer twice. She had the same story and was “stuck” in two different countries at the same time. Hilarious.

    “I’m down at the Western Union office trying to send you the $20,000, but I can’t get it through. I think its the spelling of your name or something.” Their desperation was entertaining being so close to so much Western currency, yet so far…

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  8. gump (1,553 comments) says:

    At least he finally understood it to be a fraud.

    Many victims of these scams never do. They believe they’re real against all evidence to the contrary.

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  9. Elaycee (4,332 comments) says:

    There are gullible people in society. This is but one example…

    But if this story is accurate (after all, it was only in the Hoorald), the question I’d be asking is where the hell was this man’s family for the three years it took for the facts to emerge and the crime to be reported? And if he had no family around, then surely there was someone else who knew this was happening and could have / should have stepped in??

    Staggering.

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  10. dime (9,666 comments) says:

    People believe what they want to believe. they buy into the fantasy..

    Dime woke up yesterday morning, gf was watching some crap on you tube.. this loser guy had been in an online relationship for 7 years. he was going to marry her etc. turns out she wasnt the hot bitch he thought she was, just some nutjob middle aged house wife. this poor bastard had even got her photo tattooed on his arm.

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  11. Meatloaf (167 comments) says:

    Actually, I can see how people can be so gullible. First of all as rightly pointed out, judgementalism, is used as an attack on those who are discerning. In my dictionary judgement means to declare someone guilty, and what punishement they deserve, whereas discernment means to say this doesn’t stack up I’m going to be cautious until someone can answer my questions.

    Secondly this generation says ‘google it’. That means this generation considers what is on the net as reliable information. For me what is on the net is not necessarily reliable. Usually it will have a marketing spin. This shampoo is the only shampoo that won’t damage your hair – Wen. I find a book/ebook to be far more reliable. Your paying for the information, so they don’t need to market a product, as you’ve paid them for their time. Secondly, if you write 200 pages, and you say something contradictory people will know. But you write two pages of stuff that’s not true, you won’t be contradicting yourself, and at least somepeople will take it at face value.

    So if this generation doesn’t know the difference between what’s on the net, and the reliability of books, I can see why people would send money to someone they haven’t seen. Oh but this happened to an elderly person, I guess this is affecting people older and younger than me.

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  12. wreck1080 (3,809 comments) says:

    I think there may be an element of dementia in the cases of elderly people.

    It is fascinating psychology as there are certain horror stories and common signals that everyone knows about.

    We should all know about lifes common traps, such as excessive roaming charges (which is a legalised scam in my view), nigerian scams, love scams, financial /pyramid type scams.

    But, people will still be sucked in. Why? There must be so much research on the human gullibility factor. Maybe it is like IQ, everyone has a score.

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  13. berend (1,674 comments) says:

    Brian Smaller: It is hard to fathom how people can be so gullible.

    Note that he initially even didn’t believe the police? Some people want to believe. It’s not that they’re gullible, they desperately want to believe, and no one telling them otherwise will help.

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  14. Fentex (909 comments) says:

    Someone tried to scam my mother last year with emails from Hong Kong telling her she’d won a lottery. They avoided asking for cash up front but tried to draw her in with simple questions about her identity. Either the ambition was to eventually seek cash or enough to use her identity and credit.

    They used a New Zealand telephone number pretending to be Hong Kong officials that I presume was forwarded to offices offshore and I’m surprised to say had my normally appropriately sceptical mother partially believing them, but not so much she didn’t ask my advice and become bewildered at the breadth of information Google could provide on the scam (the telephone number appeared in several searchs detailing the villainy).

    I was tempted to string them along and see if any authorities wanted help in tracking them down – but in the end I don’t have the patience to play those games.

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  15. chickadee (16 comments) says:

    Stupid old fool doesn’t deserve to have money. No sympathy for idiots. More respect for the scammers actually.

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  16. Judith (8,453 comments) says:

    wreck1080 (3,474 comments) says:
    March 31st, 2014 at 10:36 am
    I think there may be an element of dementia in the cases of elderly people…

    I don’t think it is dementia at all. I think it is just another sad sign of a society that doesn’t value the aged. That leaves them to be lonely, unguarded around technology they don’t fully understand, and so on.

    This man didn’t just ‘happen’, in all likelihood he had family and at least neighbours. But who of us bother to check on our neighbours, to see if they are lonely or in need of a chat and a cuppa. Nope, we just go about doing our thing, and then when something like this happens we call them demented. Loneliness is not dementia. Feeling that you are no use to another and just a bother, is not dementia.

    What about the unscrupulous piece of scum that did this to him? Are we so accepting of these types of crimes that we instead rubbish the victim?

    This man was probably born in an age where a gentleman’s handshake sealed a deal. He’s no doubt had to change somewhat over time, but without anyone obviously paying a great deal of attention to him, he was a sitting target, unprepared and unskilled at handling the crap our society has become – he’s probably just one of many elderly out there whose family seems to think they owe no responsibility to.

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  17. Fentex (909 comments) says:

    …this generation considers what is on the net as reliable information.

    I find a book/ebook to be far more reliable. Your paying for the information, so they don’t need to market a product, as you’ve paid them for their time.

    I find this reasoning spurious and obviously inaccurate given the quantity of nonsense published in every form. It’s also misapplied because the people in question are older rather than younger and already foolish generalisations about people and technology are more inappropriate when not even applied to the right generalisations.

    I think the relevant point is the loneliness of the people exploited, which is not a new or novel thing among the elderly who’s families and friends have moved or died. The only difference between these scams and their antecedents is that people approach via online social sites rather than walking up to the house one day.

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  18. wikiriwhis business (3,883 comments) says:

    ” the question I’d be asking is where the hell was this man’s family for the three years it took for the facts to emerge and the crime to be reported?”

    In our civilised society people can die at home alone and not be found for day’s weeks or months

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  19. edhunter (520 comments) says:

    A fool & his money…

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  20. duggie (22 comments) says:

    …..are soon partying

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  21. NoCash (256 comments) says:

    I bet the “she” is a bunch of “he”.

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  22. duggie (22 comments) says:

    Let he who has never been a fool in love throw the first stone.

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  23. Mrs Trellis (34 comments) says:

    The word “gullible” is not in the Oxford dictionary :)

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  24. Reid (16,111 comments) says:

    It’s all about investment of time and they use psychology in a very clever if despicable way. Once they hook you then what they do is string you along for a long time using the online medium to build up in your mind something that isn’t the case then once they’ve lodged the hook in your mouth via the amount of time you’ve invested in thinking about them in whatever way they’ve strung you along be it money, sex, relationship or whatever, they’ll jerk it with a request for money. But by the time they get round to what they’ve really been after since day one, you’re so invested in the fantasy after having spent hours, days, weeks and perhaps months dreaming and thinking about it, their request doesn’t seem that unreasonable to your subconscious, and that’s why it works.

    And once you give in to the first request which is often a relatively small amount, you enter the stage where you’ve crossed the Rubicon (or jumped the shark) and that means as the requests become increasingly outrageous, your emotional psyche starts battling with your logical faculties in order that you avoid admitting to yourself that you’ve been quite the fool, which in most people is an extremely strong motivator, on the subconscious level.

    Of course it takes a certain combination of factors, such as being alone which means your fantasy is not run past an objective third party who hasn’t invested what you have in it, an unsophisticated view of the world as it is today (which is why younger people are less likely to be caught) and no doubt there are others which narrow the pool of potential victims. But it’s less about IQ and more about emotional IQ combined with a lack of knowledge about technology where what you think you see is not necessarily what is the case. These things would never work if the fraudster was forced to ply their trade door to door because most humans intuitively know when someone is disingenuous in a face to face situation. However it’s only going to get worse and worse as more and more wicked people recognise this particular opportunity in the information superhighway and come up with increasingly sophisticated techniques to take advantage of the vulnerable, naive subjects.

    IMO the police could do the public a great service if they published stuff that outlines how these things work psychologically and disseminated them through organisations like greypower. Because the victims aren’t idiots, they’re simply naive and once you know how the mechanism operates you can see it coming a mile away.

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  25. stephieboy (2,539 comments) says:

    As DPF remarks from a small town in West Africa should be a big, big warning and giveaway.. Yes I do feel sorry for the pensioner and am in two minds to say whether he was the author of his own doing .Different ,of course, those scammers who gradually and slyly ingratiate themselves into their lives or the stroppy door to door. con man knocking at the front door.
    Citizens advice , Aged Concern, Fair Go, Target etc need to constantly alert the elderly to the dangers of these low lives and vermin that infest the internet and out there in the community .
    We ourselves here also have a role educating .especially , the elderly in our lives about these dangers .

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  26. Bob R (1,357 comments) says:

    One thing to do is to bait the scammers. This wastes their time and might deter them from preying on the gullible (eg. http://www.419eater.com/html/baiting.htm)

    I got one from this guy.

    “Dear friend,

    I have a confidential business proposal i want to discuss with you, i have discovered a valuable in my inheritted plot of land here in Ghana, please keep this confidential and contact me again if you are interested.

    I have registered and did all the paper works concerning my inheritance but getting it out of Ghana is my major problem, if you can help me, i am sure we will share the price on 40/60 basics. The price i am talking about is 82kg of Raw Gold, which is around $ 3,243,172.98 currently and increasing.

    Sample for testing will be provided upon request, but do note that delivery cost will be charged based on the gold karat.

    Please keep this confidential, i am expecting your reply.

    Regards,

    Mr. Daniel Owusu
    Tel: +233 549 444 903
    eMail: mr.danowusu@gmail.com

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  27. xy (169 comments) says:

    ‘These things would never work if the fraudster was forced to ply their trade door to door because most humans intuitively know when someone is disingenuous in a face to face situation.’

    Hahahah. Haha. Wait, you actually believe this?

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  28. Brian Smaller (4,028 comments) says:

    Let he who has never been a fool in love throw the first stone.

    Apart from Cheryl Rixon when I was seventeen (and I suspect that was lust) I have only ever fallen in love with people who I could physically interact with.

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  29. Nigel (515 comments) says:

    It’s easy to underestimate how good the scammers are, I saw an acquaintance almost fall in, thankfully a friend of hers got in contact with the bank & police before it really started, but I was stunned how well they deceived her.

    I think those who suggest these people are gullible are wrong, they are vulnerable & the scammers over the years appear to have perfected the manipulation they use.

    The best idea I think if you know someone in the situation is get them to google sentences from the emails, they should get a few hits pretty quick, if the victim still doesn’t believe it’s a scam, then the old adage a fool & their money are easily separated seems appropriate.

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  30. Sir Cullen's Sidekick (837 comments) says:

    Such scams would not have happened under Labour’s watch…Growing inequality is causing all this….

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  31. Bad__Cat (140 comments) says:

    God created men with a brain and a penis, but only enough blood to use one at a time.

    I know an older guy who get scammed over and over. Mind you, I think he’s bullshitting too, as he lives in a bed sitter, is on the pension, and owes money all over the place.

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  32. Mobile Michael (432 comments) says:

    I won’t friend someone on Facebook unless I’ve met them.

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  33. HB (298 comments) says:

    a movie was made about this sort of thing
    http://www.iamrogue.com/catfish
    a couple of guys filmed their mate who was romancing a girl online

    the movie was so successful there is now a tv series which helps people to meet their online loves

    from urban dictionary
    catfish
    A catfish is someone who pretends to be someone they’re not using Facebook or other social media to create false identities, particularly to pursue deceptive online romances.

    I watched it once. A girl was in a ‘relationship’ with the love of her life. The catfish people took her to meet him. It turned out it was a teenage lesbian taking the piss.

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  34. Mrs Trellis (34 comments) says:

    Wait for it……Labour’s answer…….KiwiScam :)

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  35. Steve Wrathall (261 comments) says:

    I can’t believe there are so many gullible….oh, wait….Winston got 6.7%

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  36. hj (6,742 comments) says:

    First get them to go on skype and show their strawberry Send them $20.

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  37. duggie (22 comments) says:

    Incidentally, Ashley Madison is a complete scam, virtually all the women being fake profiles. I you open a free account you will immediately be inundated with interest from women – all fakes – but you will need a full membership to continue. What bothers me is how many times mainstream media will do puff pieces promoting these crooks.

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  38. Steve (North Shore) (4,522 comments) says:

    On the other side of the coin I have a younger Thai freind that I did send some cash to many years ago. She ended up meeting an American guy and moved to Alaska to marry him.
    My partner and I are going to Alaska next year for a holiday, and to meet my Thai freind and her new Alaskan family – wonderful people.
    But yeah, the gullable just keep sending charges, fees, exchange levies; and they think it is real that they will have this huge amount for their families inheritence

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