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.
"We seemed to hit it off straight away and she started to
tell me about her situation, which didn't sound the best," he
told the Herald.
The woman claimed she had little money and lived with her
young daughter and elderly aunt in a town that was fraught
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.
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.
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).
There were times when he questioned the woman or suspected a
scam, but each time she would come up with a plausible
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
"I was sending her a lot of money and getting into a lot of
debt," the man said.
He sold a large amount of property to pay off that debt, but
it did not stop him sending the woman more money.
He is now $10,000 in debt.
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
After several days going back and forth with the Auckland
city fraud squad, he finally realised he had been duped.
The man has now cut all contact with the woman and is trying
to rebuild his life.
He feels lost, and cries as he tells his story and realises
the enormity of the scam.
Detective Senior Sergeant Aaron Pascoe said the man was one
of an ever-growing number of New Zealanders being tricked
through romance scams.
"People used to rob banks, but they don't any more, because
with the internet there's a more-modern way to try to get
money from people."
Don't be fooled
*Never send money to anyone you do not know, especially in
*Never give personal details, including financial
information, to anyone you do not know.
*If you think you are being scammed, stop all contact and
payments and contact the police for advice.
- Anna Leask, NZ Herald