Valentine's Day warning after Kiwi man almost loses thousands in romance scam

A Kiwi man is lucky to avoid thousands of dollars of debt after his personal details were used to apply for a loan through a new romance scam.

The incident has prompted renewed warnings for people to stay vigilant this Valentine's Day, with fears others could be targeted. 

When Tony, whose name has been changed, met a woman online called Katie he thought it was his chance to find love. 

"I thought she sounded okay, I thought I'll see how it goes and keep an open mind," he told Newshub. 

The pair met through dating website Tender Meets and started messaging using Google hangouts in March last year. 

She used stolen photos to paint the illusion of an infatuated young woman mentioning "love" from the start, and referring to Tony as her husband. 

It wasn't long before requests for money started to roll in. 

"It was only a couple of hundred at a time, I think she wanted millions but I didn't have millions to give," Tony said. 

So Katie changed tack.

She promised to move to New Zealand to be with Tony, and to get there she convinced him to send his details to help with immigration. 

He sent his address, his driver's license and his passport details. 

But instead of a Visa what landed in Tony's inbox was a loan application. 

"She was going to take out a loan out for just under $5000 and if she had bailed out with all the interest and stuff like that it would've cost me nearly $800 all up," he said. 

Luckily Tony didn't sign the forms after he noticed it wasn't Katie who applied for the loan.

Pioneer finance - which processed one of the forms - says even if Tony had signed, his scammers would've struggled to forge the video part of the application. 

"We won't pay out a loan for a new customer without a video, showing that it is actually them that completed the signing of the loan agreement," said Matt Chamberlain. 

Commissioner for Financial Capability Bronwyn Groot said it's the first time she's seen loans used in a romance scam, but it's not the first time love-struck victims have been duped. 

Last year there were 245 reports of romance scams leaving kiwis $5.3 million out of pocket. 

But the loss isn't just financial, it's also emotional. 

"They will say that they love you quickly - very, very quickly and then once they say that they'll use that against you. So if you start questioning them, they'll say how could you be so mean?" Groot told Newshub.

Experts say scammers use all apps and websites but will often entice you into isolated private chat services like Google hangouts. They say anyone can be a target and if you feel uneasy, it's important to speak up. 

"Our victim here was not stupid, he was just lonely," said Groot.