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Too many people looking for love are being tricked

Do due diligence for matters of the heart as well as the wallet – Banking Ombudsman

Too many people looking for love are being tricked out of their money by rakes and charlatans, says Banking Ombudsman Deborah Battell.

“Valentine’s Day is a great time to do due diligence on that person declaring their love for you, especially if they have made contact through dating sites, social networking sites or unsolicited emails.

“Each year we investigate situations in which people have been defrauded by those wanting to win money rather than hearts. Typically they are bank customers who then look to their banks to recover the defrauded funds.

“It is sometimes possible to recover funds, for example when a transaction has not been completed. In other cases banks have noticed an unusual pattern of transactions and managed to stem the flow of funds after contacting the customer concerned,” Ms Battell said.

However, more often than not, the bank has followed legitimate customer instructions and is not aware of the fraud. In recent cases, customers have even sent their cards and PIN numbers overseas, which is a clear breach of bank terms and conditions. In these circumstances, customers will not be able to recover their money.

“We have recently heard about a person who sold their home, sent the proceeds overseas and moved to a hotel only to wait in vain for their cyber love interest to materialise in New Zealand. We have also heard from people who have lost hard-earned savings to those holding out the promise of love. These cases are tragic and potentially avoidable,” Ms Battell says.

She says people need to be alert to love scams. She advises not to send money to someone promising love if:

- the initial contact was made through overseas dating and social networking sites or unsolicited emails

- you have never met them in person

- the “lover” spins sob stories and starts asking for money.

In addition, customers should never give out their cards and PINs to anyone.

ENDS

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