Whether it's by words, gifts such as roses or chocolate, or a combination of both, Valentine's Day is an expression of love for that special someone.
But for some unsuspecting Kiwis, "love may not always be in the air", BNZ's head of financial crime Ashley Kai Fong warns.
Scammers prey on feelings of loneliness, which can be more prevalent on days such as Valentine's Day, he says.
For one bank customer, the case of 'one bitten twice shy' didn't apply, the customer falling for the scammer's tricks a second time.
Having lost $70,000 in a relationship scam in 2018, the customer cut all contact, only to find the scammer return, convincing them they'd made a mistake.
"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," Kai Fong explains.
Making international transfers, the customer believed they were helping the scammer get into New Zealand.
In reality, they were helping to transfer money the scammer had stolen from other victims.
"To add insult to injury, this customer has also lost a further $16,000 of their own money," Kai Fong says.
"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 a MIQ spot," Kai Fong adds.
Although plenty of cases are genuine, people in pursuit of love are reminded to be vigilant when the conversation moves to 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," Kai Fong says.
Where a scam is involved, the relationship tends to move quickly, with early proclamations of love.
Here's some other tell-tale signs the key motive is money, rather than 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.
- Change of communication style (e.g. scammers can use a range of people to maintain the scam).
- Use of false identification, including photos (check Google's reverse image search, to see where else any photo might have appeared).