Police warn of online dating scam

HPD Lieutenant John McCarthy
HPD Lieutenant John McCarthy

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu police are warning women to beware of an online dating scam that can leave them alone and in financial ruin.

"The suspects are interested in one thing. They're not interested in a relationship. They are not interested in love. They are often not even in the United States, but they are interested in money," said HPD Lieutenant John McCarthy.

During a press conference Thursday McCarthy said police are aware of four cases in Hawaii since December, 2011 in which women have lost a substantial amount of money to people pretending to be interested in establishing relationships.

"We have one victim here in Hawaii that's well over $300,000," he said.

In all four cases the cyber crime was committed by people using match.com. A bogus online profile is created portraying a man looking for love. But whoever created the profile is actually interested in gaining an unsuspecting woman's trust, then convincing her to sent money.

"They slowly con you. 'I need money. I need more money.' And they'll come up with various excuses. 'I'm going to make you money. If you send me some money, I'll send you more. I'm working on a project. Send me money because I'm away from home. I need money to exist or I need money to pay for my project,'" McCarthy said.

One of the four women victimized by the scam answered questions at the press conference.

"They will say everything you want to hear. So for me being naive, it was my first time on the site, I just listened to whatever he told me and did whatever he told me, and did whatever he told me," said the woman who lost more than $36,000.

"It's leading to financial ruin in some people's cases. I mean total financial ruin," McCarthy said.

Honolulu police can work with law enforcement in other jurisdictions and other countries to track down cyber criminals, but some West African countries, Nigeria for example, do not cooperate with law enforcement entities in the United States.

"We can catch them. It's possible. Not probable. We're always looking for that lead," McCarthy said.

McCarthy's advice; do not share personal information with someone you do not know and have not met. And certainly do not send money.

"When this first happened to me I felt ashamed and didn't want to tell anybody. But at the same time I'm pissed off because this person took a lot of money from me. I'm a single parent and I work to support my kids. They need to be caught," the victim said.

Match.com and other online dating sites are perfectly legal and often result in people who connecting to form long lasting relationships. Police stress the web sites are not doing anything wrong, but criminals are using them as a tool to commit cyber crime.

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