Online dating fraud soars in New Zealand
The amount of money New Zealanders lost to online dating scams has doubled in the past year and now makes up almost two-thirds of all reported online fraud losses
An online security firm reported losing a total 982,000 dollars from online fraud in 1500 separate incidents in the past year.
Reported losses from romance and online dating scams, which is generally a source of major frauds, almost doubled to more than 674,000 dollars.
The modus operandi that fraudsters usually followed was to befriend vulnerable women online and later claim to urgently need large sums of money for an overseas financial emergency.
The firm's website operates in collaboration with the police, the Consumer Affairs Ministry and other government agencies which lets people report frauds by merely clicking on an “online reporting button”.
The charity had claimed in June that cyber-crime cost the country “as much as 625 million dollars” in financial losses after the time and expense in sorting issues, such as removing malware, was included.
The estimate was extrapolated from international surveys that were carried out by a popular anti-virus firm, which sells security software.
The security firm's consultant acknowledged that the anti-virus software company's figures had been questioned and said that there was no single source of reliable figures. But he said the losses reported to its Orb website would be the “tip of the iceberg” because it was quite possible that many people suffered in silence.
The firm's executive director Martin Cocker said that online scams and fraud made up a large chunk of the 1500 reported incidents.
“There has been a decline in reports about cold calling technical support companies and a rise in the number of people having their online accounts hacked,” an online news report quoted him as saying.
“As well as suffering financial losses, many people are struggling to deal with the emotional turmoil and stress caused by online break-ins to their email and social networking accounts,” he said.
Apart from rising losses from dating scams there had also been a marked rise in the number of complaints about online trading, including penny auction sites.
“With more people now shopping online and looking overseas for bargains, many people have fallen victim to fake websites that never deliver the goods they’ve paid for,” he said.
He further advised people to think of strong, unique passwords for important online accounts and to be suspicious of spam or phishing messages, which directed them to malicious or fake websites.
“If you’re looking to buy online always be cautious of websites you haven’t dealt with before and if the price seems too good to be true take some time to research the company. Google their name and the words ‘review’ or ‘scam’ to see if other customers have had problems in the past,” he said.
“Lastly, avoid sending money by wire transfer to people you don’t know and if you buy online use a credit card and discuss any problem transactions with your bank,” he added.