Real Life

‘I lost $20,000 for love’

Caught in an online web of internet dating scams, this Kiwi man is not only nursing a broken heart, but an empty wallet.
A Kiwi man is nursing a broken heart and an empty wallet after being the target of online scams

John Taylor* was like any other small-town, single man looking for love. But after becoming the victim of an online scam, in which he lost almost $20,000, the shy 55-year-old has been left emotionally scarred. A spur-of-the-moment career move to South Korea in 2008 promised to be an exciting new chapter in the single man’s life, but shortly after arriving in the country, John longed for companionship – a feeling that led him to an online dating service called mate1.com.

John soon got in contact with a Malaysian woman named Jade. After only two weeks of chatting online, John was surprised at how hopelessly in love he was and believed the feeling was mutual. Little did he know it was the beginning of a two-year online battle for cash. “I was in love with her,” he says. “And I genuinely thought she had fallen in love with me.”

Longing to meet her, John happily agreed to send Jade money for flights to South Korea, jumping at any opportunity to meet the woman who he believed to be the love of his life. Within two hours of payment, Jade was requesting more money. She claimed that in order to enter the country, she needed an extra $2400 in her bank account as security.

John refused to pay any more and after a heated online argument with Jade, he decided the best move was to cut off all contact from his Malaysian love. It wasn’t long before John was contacted by another woman, this time a Russian named Diane. After a month of flirty online chats, Diane pleaded with John to help her pay for flights to visit. “She said she couldn’t stand the suspense and wanted me to send over $500. I thought it wasn’t too much, so I didn’t mind,” John says.

But as soon as he transferred the money, John’s doubt kicked in as to the honesty of her love. “When I was heading to the airport, I thought, ‘I bet she’s full of it,’ but I was willing to part with the money. I’ve always been a bit of a gambler.”

Waiting at the airport, John soon realised he had once again been blinded by love. Diane never arrived. After two painful rejections, John was left hurt and embarrassed. He sent angry emails to Diane and eventually cut all communication with her as he had done with Jade. Then, out of the blue, John received an email from someone claiming to work for The Standard Bank of England, saying that a lottery ticket purchased in Malaysia under his name was a winner.

John was told he had won more than $1.1 million. Confused and shocked, he contacted his old flame Jade, asking if she knew anything about the ticket. She said before their relationship had ended, she had purchased a ticket under John’s name. To validate their claim, the bank referred John to a lawyer. The lawyer – who was using a Gmail account – claimed to require a $6000 fee in order to represent John. They asked him to transfer the money from offshore accounts.

“At the time, it seemed authentic,” he says. “Of course a lawyer would ask for a fee.” Unable to afford the payment, John called his sister for help, asking if she could lend him the money until his lottery winnings came through. She said the plot sounded like an online scam and refused to lend him money. Close to breaking point, John says his body began to show signs of the stressful situation. “It all affected me very badly,” he says. “I rapidly lost weight and I was constantly sweating.”

John’s life became a haze of emails to Jade, the lawyer and the bank, unsure if they were people that existed or one individual scamming him for all he was worth. The last straw was in May 2009. Despite promising that the previous payment for dealing with the offshore accounts was the last, the lawyer requested another sum of $5000, claiming it was a fee required to transport the money through Japan.

John rang a bank in New Zealand, asking about fees for moving money from international accounts. He was told the fee he was quoted was exaggerated and there was a possibility that he was being scammed. Fed up, John emailed the bank, the lawyer and Jade saying that he was pulling out of the venture. To this day, he has never seen a cent of the apparent lottery winnings. In total, John lost almost $20,000.

“I’m not stupid, but I feel stupid,” John admits. “I know I’m not the only person this has happened to and I don’t blame dating websites.” As a result of his ordeal, John now believes that most women are only interested in him for financial gain, instead of for love. “I used to wonder why women wanted to be wives,” he says. “I realise it’s the money.”

“I know not all women are like that, but the ones I have met are. My last girlfriend was in February and after two weeks she wanted to borrow $5000 off me.” Still single and unable to comprehend the possibility of a new relationship, John was never able to tell anyone of his “dark time” in South Korea, for fear of being judged.

“I was genuinely in love with Jade,” he says, the pain clear in his voice. “I certainly learned a lot from those years. When I came back to New Zealand in 2010, I felt so good, relieved. I was free.” Despite the financial loss and the blow to his self-esteem, John is trying to forget the past. “If you fall down you get back up. That sums me up.”

**Name has been changed*

Daisy Sillis

The reality of scammers

  • NetSafe has received 33 reports of online scamming over the past year, with 16 New Zealanders losing a total of $674,000.

  • The biggest loss was a divorcee who sent $250,000 to someone claiming to be a petroleum engineer who had worked in Nigeria.

  • Avoid anyone who requests personal information through the internet, including credit card numbers, bank account details or even your date of birth. Some scammers are not only after your money – identity theft is also very common.

  • Don’t be fooled by people who seem genuine. Scam artists are willing to spend a long time creating a relationship with you and building trust.

  • Remember, if something seems too good to be true… it probably is!

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