Police believe there are more victims of a Christchurch man who allegedly befriends women through online dating sites before stealing from them.
Three women in different parts of the country, including one from Waimate, have reported being scammed by Shane William Grogan, also known as Shane Calder, after meeting him online.
Grogan allegedly travelled to stay with each of the women before leaving abruptly with stolen cash and belongings.
In the first reported incident, in October last year, the 46-year-old travelled to Rotorua to stay with a woman in her 50s. Grogan then left the area suddenly, allegedly stealing the woman's car and a bankcard that he used to withdraw money.
He travelled to Palmerston North the following month to meet another woman he met online, this victim aged in her 30s. He stayed at the woman's home for a week and proposed to her before leaving suddenly, allegedly taking cash and belongings.
Grogan then travelled to Waimate around New Year to meet a third woman he befriended on a dating website. He stayed with the woman, aged in her 50s, for six days before allegedly taking off with valuable heirloom jewellery and a computer.
Acting Sergeant Chris Macpherson said Grogan's alleged offending was particularly predatory.
He had taken advantage of his victims after posing as a friend and gaining their trust, along with access to their homes and belongings.
"We believe there will be other people out there who ... may have had an interaction with him of a similar nature."
The Press viewed a profile set up by Grogan on international dating website Badoo.com which stated he was "looking for a nice lady to pamper".
"[She] doesn't have to be good looking but have a great personality and sense of humour, I love walks on the beach at night looking at the sunset, I love to cook, am a romantic man at heart."
Macpherson warned anyone currently in contact with Grogan online to stop interacting with him.
The case was a "timely reminder" of the dangers of befriending strangers through internet sites.
Not everyone on internet dating sites was a criminal, but there were some who used the services to "deceive and prey on victims", Macpherson said.
"I would hope that it's uncommon, but people just have to be very, very aware of interacting [online]. If they're not happy they should stop interacting with them."
NetSafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons said dating scams caused the "single biggest loss" for New Zealanders online in 2012.
"It is a particularly sad thing to be a victim of. Not only do you lose the money, you're also dealing with the idea that 10 minutes ago you thought this person was the one, now ... they're not who they said they were."
Some people became "emotionally invested" in online relationships without verifying who they were communicating with.
"A lot of this stuff goes on in complete isolation. They don't get that reality check from their friends," Lyons said.
Grogan is described as European, about 188cm (6 feet 2 inches) tall and of thin build. He could be going by other aliases, and while he was believed to be in Christchurch, he could have already left the city, Macpherson said.
Anyone who knew where Grogan was or had information on his recent movements was urged to contact police on 03 363 7400, or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
- © Fairfax NZ News