City Weekend

Cheated hearts, empty pockets: online dating scams in Hong Kong and abroad

Cases include victim transferring money to ease supposed lover’s financial difficulties

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 April, 2017, 9:23am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 September, 2017, 4:23pm

Major development project

In October last year, a 48-year-old Hong Kong woman living in Kwun Tong was revealed to have been conned out of HK$1.4 million by her Nigerian “lover”. The manager of a local trading company made six transfers to the fraudster’s account after first making contact with the man in March of that year through an undisclosed dating platform. He told her he had invested in a “major development project”, but he was in financial difficulties and needed money urgently. But by August, after she had made the deposits, the man stopped returning her messages. She subsequently filed a report with police, who are investigating.


Financial problems

A 42-year-old Hong Kong woman was duped into transferring HK$880,000 to a man named “Ritchie”, posing as a British businessman online. The victim, a clerk who lived in Kwun Tong’s Tsui Ping Estate, transferred the cash to bank accounts in Mexico and the United States between May and August last year in 30 separate transactions. The woman had never met her supposed “lover”, who she met through a dating app.


Online dating scam syndicate

In December last year, Hong Kong, Malaysian and Nigerian police were revealed to have busted a syndicate running online romance scams which duped nearly 90 women out of HK$60 million. The victim who suffered the biggest loss was revealed as a middle-aged professional woman from Hong Kong who transferred HK$9.1 million to the gang. The woman met her make-believe lover through an online dating app and transferred the cash to 10 bank accounts in Malaysia and Nigeria. The gang was suspected to be headed by a pair of lovers – a Nigerian man, aged 36, and a Malaysian woman, 46. They were among 13 people arrested in Malaysia during the joint operation.


Dine and dash

Last month, an American man going by the name of Paul Gonzales was exposed as having pulled a “dine and dash” stunt on scores of women in the US state of California who he met on dating app Bumble and dating website Plenty of Fish. The 44-year-old took a string of victims on first dates in which he ordered expensive, hearty meals and later rushed off to take a phone call just before the bill arrived and never returned. Some of his victims told the media they later tried to contact him online, but he reportedly blocked them. One victim, who declined to be named, told CBS Los Angeles that the restaurant they visited together eventually asked her to pay for only her wine, after it realised she had been duped. Bumble, meanwhile, offered to refund Gonzales’ victims if they had proof of contact with him, as well as a receipt for their dinner date. Police in Los Angeles have subsequently revealed he is wanted for more than one case of petty theft and has done short stints in prison.