Palmerston North woman loses $30,000 in online scam | #scams | #elderlyscams
An unsolicited Facebook message has led an elderly woman to lose almost $30,000.
Across the course of three months the Palmerston North woman spent and borrowed almost $30,000 for a man who she’d never met.
The “doctor”, who lived in Afghanistan, spent two weeks developing a relationship before the transactions began.
They would never meet, and she would never see her money returned.
It’s a tale as old as time, Sergeant James Bennett said, as he looked at the bags full of redeemable game cards she used to pass on funds to her overseas lover.
* Nurses oppose bed cuts for older mental health patients
* Grey Power alarmed by aged care complaints
* Unwelcome news for the comfortable bastions of older men
People needed to be aware of the danger of interacting with unknown people online, he said.
“The story varies, but the method is similar throughout.”
Protecting the woman’s identity, Bennett described how she was lured in by the online scammer with the promise of love on the horizon, but financial issues were stopping him from arriving.
“It’s just scary. She had these [pictures] in a frame on her mantle piece absolutely convinced that this guy is going to come to New Zealand, with his son, and they’re going to have a relationship.
“This is a really common scam, we see these weekly.”
He was disgusted by scammers’ abilities to use redeemable game cards as the vessel – accessible from almost all popular retail stores – to hoodwink unknowing, vulnerable people out of every cent they had.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Bennett saw about two cases a week in Palmerston North, and that’s just the ones he knew about.
With the access scammers had globally, the figures of people being taken for a ride were astronomical, he said.
“The only way to deal with this is to not send any money. Once it’s out of New Zealand there’s nothing we can do about it.
“The problem we have is they’re so embarrassed that they end up hiding it until someone finds out and it all gets blown open, but by then it’s too late.”
People who were scammed were generally isolated, he said.
“They also tend to be quite vulnerable with gambling, alcohol and medical issues, so something like this comes along and it’s exciting.
“She’s borrowed money from a friend, a neighbour, cleaned out her own account and had taken a bank loan.”
Bennett said people who had connections with their families or the community were less likely to be sucked in.
He urged younger and internet-savvy people to check in on their relatives, and ask those uncomfortable questions because it could save a lot of heartache and money.
“Just saying, ‘Grandma can we have a conversation about what you do with your money’. Asking if there’s unusual behaviour going on, just giving a little bit of support.”
Russell Hallam, president of Manawatū Grey Power, was shocked when he heard the woman’s story.
“You can’t describe those people, there’s no word for it,” he said.
“I’ve heard of people being duped into relationships and being scammed out of money. I can see how easy it would be.
“When people get amongst your emotions it’s hard, especially if you’re looking for company.”
Hallam said scams against ageing, vulnerable people was a major concern for Grey Power nationally.
He urged family members to reach out to their relatives and build a stronger connection.
“There’s lots of people who don’t have family to talk to. This can be avoided by looking after each other.”