With experts warning consumers about scams on Valentine’s last week, the New Zealand Bankers’ Association (NZBA) is also warning against being scammed by online romancers who might be more interested in your bank account than your stellar personality.
What starts out as a budding online romance can quickly turn into devastating heartbreak once you’ve handed over your personal information or life savings, only to discover your soul mate was actually a stock image and has since vanished into cyberspace, the NZBA warns.
“We live in an increasingly online world, which means people become very comfortable building online relationships,” says Antony Buick–Constable, acting chief executive of the New Zealand Bankers’ Association.
“All too often we hear of people being baited by catphish and duped into giving personal information or money to an online love who turns out to be a fraudster,” he explains.
“There is always the possibility of being targeted by an online scam, and there are steps people can take to help protect themselves,”
Catphishing occurs when a fake profile is created online through emails, dating sites or social media to lure someone into a romantic relationship.
Buick–Constable says scammers are sophisticated and often invest a lot of time to create emails or extensive online social circles to make themselves look legitimate.
“They can spend months grooming their victims to gain their trust and make them feel like they’re ‘The One’. They continue to lavish attention until their victims are comfortable sharing personal information or handing over money to help with a fictional financial problem,” he says.
“Once a scammer has you hooked they’ll appeal to your heart for your cash. Often they reel people in with a convincing personal crisis story – they’re stranded in the Congo after being robbed and they need cash for an airfare; their sick mother needs an emergency operation; or they’re actually quite wealthy, but can’t access their money right now and need a short term loan.
“Shortly thereafter victims discover their Romeo or Juliet isn’t quite who they thought they were as they are left bewildered with empty pockets and an empty heart,” says Buick–Constable.
“We all need to be cautious if ever approached for money or personal details online. It is important to remain vigilant in protecting our personal information, bank accounts and ultimately our money.”
Top tips to help prevent you falling for a catphish:
• Don’t share your bank account login details, cards, PINS or passwords with anyone – no matter how much you love them! Your bank will never ask you for this information.
• Protect your personal information and only provide it to trusted people and organisations. This includes your date of birth, address, driver licence and passport details.
• Don’t reply to, click on any links, or open any files in spam emails. Don’t call any numbers in spam emails.
• If something doesn’t seem right, take time to make the appropriate checks. Always double check any email or website address against one you know to be legitimate.
• Don’t give or lend money to people you don’t know, and especially to people you have only met on the internet. Beware that there are online scammers out there.
• Contact your bank immediately if you think you are a victim of a banking scam or if you think your bank account has become compromised in any way.
• If you are the genuine victim of banking fraud your bank will generally stand by you and reimburse any losses. That promise doesn’t override your responsibility to protect access to your online accounts.