Online love scams are more dangerous than they may seem. Learning about people who have lost significant amounts of money in romance scams can be a good lesson for anyone who is looking for their soul mate over the internet. One notable story of this kind involves a Hong Kong policeman who was conned out of HK$200,000 by his online date. Learn what happened.
Everything started on a dating app where the man, who is in his 20s, found the profile of a potential partner and started chatting with her. This happened in December 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic started to emerge in Asia. Like it often happens on dating apps, the two started talking about all sorts of things and realized they had a lot in common. The woman seemed and behaved like an honest, natural, loving person who needed and looked for a serious commitment. Unlike other romance scams, which usually take some time before the scammer feels confident and dares to ask for money, this case unfolded pretty quickly due to a favorable context. The coronavirus pandemic began, and countries started to close their borders while airlines cancelled their commercial flights. This led to many people being stranded far away from their homes, in a different country, or even a different continent. Many resorted to loans to be able to turn back home or cope with their living expenses in the foreign country where they were stranded until rescue flights became available.
The woman who pulled the scam we are talking about took advantage of this context and claimed she needed money to turn back home as she was stranded in Japan. The young police officer was eager to help her and agreed to send her money. He offered the impressive amount of HK$200,000, which is approximately $26,000. After transferring the respective amount, the man soon realized he had been conned as his online date was no longer available to chat with him online, despite his numerous attempts to reach out to her. Basically, once she got the money, she simply vanished. Then, the man filed a report to the Yuen Long Police Station and this is how his story came to light. In Japan, like in many other countries worldwide, online romance scams are on the rise. According to statistics, almost 1000 cases of online love scams were reported to the authorities in 2020 in Japan, which is double compared to the number registered the previous year. The total amount of money people lost in these types of scams in 2020 was HK$212 million.
Because the best way to steer clear of similar, painful, and stressful situations is to be cautious, here are a few tips to avoid online love scams:
- Be wary of people you meet online, in the context of a potential romantic relationship, who seem too good a match, especially if they say they live far away.
- Ask for more details about who the person you’re chatting with is and don’t shy from doing a bit of background research. If you’re dealing with a real person, they probably have social profiles on different platforms.
- Take a step back when you feel the relationship is moving too fast; love scammers often invest some time in trying to earn your trust, but they won’t wait forever for the right moment. At some point, they suddenly ask for money.
- Be cautious if you’re meeting someone on a dating app and while you insist to see that person in real life, they keep avoiding this and constantly come up with excuses not to meet you.
- When you’re being asked for money, you should see a big red flag on the screen instead of a chance to help someone in need, especially if you’ve never met that person face to face.
- Avoid sending money right away. Ask your online date to allow you a few days to think about it. During this time, continue communicating with that person as usual and see how and if their attitude changes. If they become too pushy, step back.
- Scammers often ask to receive money through specific payment methods and won’t accept a bank transfer or the method that’s the most convenient for you, which is another red flag.