A woman who lost more than half a million dollars in a Tinder scam saw her hopes of recovering the money dim further after her bank told her she was responsible for the loss.
Thing previously revealed three women, Joanne, Donna and Samantha – not their real names to protect their identities – collectively lost more than $2 million to men they met through the dating app Tinder in nearly identical counters.
The elaborate scams, believed to be carried out by organized crime groups overseas, involved fake news videos, a fake banking site and dozens of daily emails and phone calls.
Joanne lost $540,000 to a man named Dale Plumides, who used photos of a Dallas realtor for the Tinder profile.
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This week, Joanne received an email from Westpac’s Financial Crimes Team telling her they had been unable to recover her money.
“Our findings showed no evidence to suggest that the bank’s security relating to your online banking was breached, and that there were no instances of fraud or payment system failure that would entitle a refund under Westpac’s terms and conditions.
“While we understand your situation, since the bank believes these transactions are permitted, you are unfortunately responsible for the loss.
“I understand this must be very difficult for you, not just financially but emotionally, and I’m sorry we can’t do more for you.”
The staff member recommended that Joanne continue to follow up with the police regarding her case as they may be able to seek redress in court.
Westpac has also posted a warning on its bank profile in case fraudsters try to use personal information to access its accounts through its contact center.
Joanne also received an update from the police about their investigation.
A local Investigation Support Unit officer said the case had been handed over to an investigator to “dig into a little bit” the Kiwibank account to which his money had been transferred.
A woman who lost $1 million to a Tinder scammer recorded this conversation.
“In my experience, the circumstances of your report are consistent with romance scams originating overseas.
“The New Zealand bank account, at this time, is the only investigative lead we have in New Zealand as we do not have the legal capacity or jurisdiction to investigate overseas bank accounts or persons of interest.”
The officer said he had come across several similar romance scams and there were usually only two main outcomes.
The New Zealand bank account either belonged to someone who knowingly or recklessly received Joanne’s money and transferred it overseas, and who could be charged with money laundering, or the owner of the bank account was the victim of a similar romance scam.
“Scammers can have multiple scams running at the same time, and convinces [the victim] either the money (or a small part of it) goes to them, and then they use their bank account to transfer money to the scammer.
“If so, there is no criminal offense committed by this bank account owner, and this will likely end the investigation.”
Joanne said on Sunday she was “beyond disappointed” at the “lack of support” from both sides.
“I still have no idea who the account is and where my money went from there.”
More than a month after learning she had been scammed, Joanne said she was “not getting out of it” and was “getting through it every day”.
“I’m still stressed about how easy it is in New Zealand to scam people and get away with it without anyone being caught and held accountable.”
Parliament’s Finance and Expenditure Committee recently decided unanimously to open a briefing on the responsibility of banks in identifying the “characteristics” of scams.
Private investigator John Borland, who is investigating Joanne’s case, said an investigation “absolutely needs to take place”.
“Overall the banks are doing a good job in some areas of fraud, but we are looking at a pandemic of dating scams that spans years and a review needs to be done to see if the banks are doing it. enough for their customers.”
The police are urging people to be wary of any approach online where something might appear out of the ordinary, and advising to be wary of, among other things, the following:
People who always have excuses as to why they can’t meet you in person or even via video call.
Those who often find themselves in a hard-to-reach place, such as those who work on oil rigs, in the military, or overseas.
People who always have a bloody history, like a sick child or parent, and there’s always a degree of urgency.
Tips for those looking for love online include:
Be careful what you post and make public on the internet. Scammers can use information shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
Find the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or details have been used elsewhere.
Be wary if the person seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
Note if the person is trying to isolate you from friends and family or is asking for inappropriate photos or financial information that could then be used to extort you.
Anyone who thinks they have been scammed can contact the police and report the matter via 105, or visit consumerprotection.govt.nz/general-help/scamwatch for more information on how to protect themselves and their family and his friends, against scams.