Romance investment scams on the rise! Prearranged encounter?
In February 2021, the Cross-border Consumer center Japan (CCJ) in the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan (NCAC) issued an alert on investment scams related to dating sites or matchmaking apps. Even after that, there have been numerous inquiries and complaints about romance investment scams (e.g. "I met someone on a dating site. Being induced by the person I love, I made an investment through an unknown overseas site. Now I cannot withdraw money from it.")
Diagram: Annual number of inquiries about dating sites or matchmaking apps to CCJ*
- * Inquiries received by CCJ from April 1, 2018 through December 31, 2021
The inquiries amounted to 12 in FY2018 (2 about investment), 25 in FY2019 (5 about investment), 109 in FY2020 (84 about investment) and 187 in FY2021 through the end of December 2021 (170 about investment).
I made an investment for our future. When I tried to withdraw money, I was told to pay a deposit
I met a man on a matchmaking app. He said he was a foreign manager and was treated as a VIP in fashion brand shops. After he canceled the membership of the matchmaking app, he and I started to communicate through a free calling app. Later, he began to call me "baby" or "wife". For several days he encouraged me to make an investment through an investment site to prepare for our future. I couldn't say no and I made a small investment. I made a profit and I withdrew money from the investment site. He induced me to invest more to get more return. Then, I borrowed about 5,000,000 yen in total from a bank and a consumer finance company to invest. When I tried to withdraw money, I was told to pay 15% of my total assets as a deposit (1,800,000 yen). I further borrowed 500,000 yen. I talked with him about how to pay the remaining 1,300,000 yen, but soon after that I lost contact with him.
(woman in her 30s in November 2021)
- I paid investment into a specified personal account. When I tried to withdraw money, I was told to pay income tax.
- Although I paid a fee for withdrawing investment, I was unable to withdraw it.
Characteristics and tactics highlighted
How consumers fall victim to a romance investment scam:
- You meet someone on a dating site or matchmaking app.
- Before meeting face to face, the person encourages you to communicate through a service other than a dating site or matchmaking app.
- The person gives you an explanation on an investment site and induce you to make an investment.
- The person tells you to transfer investment money.
- At first the person induces you to make a small investment. You can see a profit on the investment site.
- Next, the person induces you to make a larger investment. You send money again.
- When you try to withdraw money, you will be demanded to send money for various reasons. After all, you can never withdraw any money.
- You lose contact with the person you love and the investment site operator. Your money will never be refunded.
Problems and Advice
- Never make an investment per the advice of someone you have met on a dating site or matchmaking app.
- When using a dating site or matchmaking app, follow rules set by the operator.
In case of trouble or concern:
Consult your local consumer affairs center right away. In case of trouble with a foreign business, you can consult CCJ by email.