A man in Canterbury, New Zealand, got ripped off by Facebook con artists to the tune of $45,000 as he fell for a fake romantic relationship over the course of several months.
The scam started when the victim was befriended by a female stranger on Facebook. The two stuck up a conversation that eventually led to a romantic relationship. Eventually, the “woman” said she needed $1,500 to pay a lawyer to help her receive an $800,000 inheritance. Next, she asked the man to help her cover the costs of a sick child and help her deal with “hard times.” Before he knew it, the victim had sent $45,000 to his Facebook love interest. What’s worse, he made the payments through Western Union, meaning that it’s virtually impossible for law enforcement to track where the money went. However, experts believe that the cybercriminals are likely from either Africa or Asia. NetSafe, a New Zealand Internet safety group, said $1.5 million has already been taken from New Zealanders in romance scams just this year.
Experts also warn users to be careful of strangers reaching out to them with odd requests of Facebook—especially if they’re asking for money.
“In terms of romance scams, the minute anyone asks you for money that is an absolute red flag, especially if they say they are overseas,” said Lee Chisholm, NetSafe operations manager. “They can go through a lot of trouble and talk to people for a very long time to build their trust. All of the things they say seem credible at the time.”