Love isn’t always in the air – beware of relationship scams

While many people around the country are busy with romantic plans and gestures for their partners today, Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) is reminding people to be cautious about the ever-present threat of relationship scams.

BNZ Head of Financial Crime, Ashley Kai Fong, says, “Relationship scams are particularly evil and heart-breaking. The scammers target people they know are vulnerable or lonely, offering them what seems like genuine connection and companionship. They are psychologically manipulating their victims into thinking they have a strong emotional bond and that they care about them, but all they care about is their money.

“Relationship scams can strike at any time but are particularly effective when a victim might be feeling more lonely than usual. Their vulnerability is a scammer’s opportunity,” says Kai Fong.

BNZ warns that relationship scams can be perpetuated over long periods of time with scammers even going back to victims they’ve targeted before.

“BNZ has been working closely with a customer who was previously caught up in a relationship scam back in 2018. The victim lost $70,000 before they realised they were being duped and cut off contact.

“We’ve recently discovered that the scammer has managed to get back in touch with the victim, convincing them it was all a misunderstanding and that they really do have a proper relationship.

“Of course, the scam continued, with the customer being used as a money mule to unwittingly help transfer money stolen from other victims out of the country for the scammer. To add insult to injury, this customer has also lost a further $16,000 of their own money,” says Kai Fong.

The victim believed they were making the international transfers to help the scammer get to New Zealand.

“In a relationship scam tailored for COVID times the scammer then told the customer that, after taking all the money, they can’t come to New Zealand because they haven’t been able to get an MIQ spot,” says Kai Fong.

Kiwis can learn more and test their scam spotting skills at or see the latest scams at

How to spot a relationship scam:

  • Relationship scams can move quickly, with early proclamations of love
  • Talking about personal troubles that can only be solved with money
  • Requests for money to meet in person, such as for airfares or other travel costs
  • Scammers sometimes use a range of people to maintain the scam, so communication styles may change between them
  • Scammers often create fake identities from photos of people they find online, so check anything on Google’s reverse image search to see where else any photo might have appeared.
  • If you’ve fallen victim to a relationship scam, talk to your bank immediately. If you think a loved one has fallen victim, you can talk to Netsafe for advice.