Tinder ‘swindler’ scam: Man allegedly involved in conning women out of more than $1m has left New Zealand

Those allegedly behind an elaborate Tinder scam used this photo of Mark Cain to create an identity for a Dale Plumides.

A man allegedly involved in a high-profile Tinder “swindler” scam that netted more than $1m from Kiwi women has left New Zealand – and a woman suspected of assisting him has been given a warning by police.

The Herald on Sunday has learned that woman is also believed to have lost money to the alleged scammer.

One of the victims, Joanne (not her real name), has described how she handed over $540,000 in the alleged scam after connecting with a man on Tinder in July 2021.

The man called himself Dale Plumides on his profile, which used a photo of a suited and smiling silver-haired man. It was later revealed the photo was actually of a real estate agent in Dallas named Mark Cain with no connection to the case.


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Joanne, aged in her 50s, swiped right on the man, who said he was a 58-year-old from Auckland, and the following day he messaged her. The two spoke regularly for a couple of weeks before he sent her his email address.

Plumides told her he was an independent engineer/contractor who was in Dubai working on a bridge. He claimed he would be back in the country in several weeks. He also sent a news video about the bridge that showed a photo of Cain (who Plumides was purporting to be). It would later be revealed that the woman presenting the so-called news was a hired actor from the UK who was told the videos would be used to help people learn English.

Mark Cain is a real estate agent in Dallas with no connection to the case.
Mark Cain is a real estate agent in Dallas with no connection to the case.

“I just want to spend the rest of my life enjoying the fruit of my labour,” Plumides told Joanne in an email. “I want a woman who would be my best friend and partner in everything. I’m talking about a relationship where we would continue to love each other more, as the days pass by, till we can’t make love anymore and all we do is play bingo LOL.”

He also referred to Joanne as “my ballerina lady”.


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The pair spoke regularly on the phone, but Plumides, who had an American accent, said he was unable to use Skype in Dubai.

About a month after they first started talking, Plumides said there had been an accident at the worksite that resulted in several workers being injured. He asked if she would pay some money to help the staff. She sold some jewellery and agreed to send $1000.

Several weeks later, he asked Joanne to log in to his bank account, via a link he sent, to check the $9.2 million he was supposed to get paid for the bridge work had cleared. If it had, he wanted her to transfer the money to one of his colleagues.

When Joanne – who initially said she did not want to log in to the account – did as she was asked, it said the account was frozen due to unpaid taxes.

Plumides then asked her to help by sending money for the unpaid taxes. He promised once it was cleared she would get her money back.

Joanne first got an overdraft for $22,000 to help, before she later sold her house and agreed to send another $228,000 to cover further tax issues.

A month later, Plumides said he was still unable to get his money. This time he needed $290,000. Joanne, who hoped paying the extra money would mean she got her money back, agreed.

“This has to work darling”, Joanne said.

“So please please make sure this is it before paying as we will lose our house otherwise.”

He replied “don’t worry baby”.


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This fake news video featured a photo of Dallas real estate agent Mark Cain, purporting to be Dale Plumides.
This fake news video featured a photo of Dallas real estate agent Mark Cain, purporting to be Dale Plumides.

“I’m 100 per cent positive this time around… We’re good to go love, I’m sure about this,” he said.

He finished the email by calling himself “your prince charming”.

Plumides eventually stopped contacting her after he claimed his son died. Joanne then contacted a private investigator as well as the police in April last year.

On Wednesday, Joanne met with a police officer who told her that her money had been sent to a woman who lived in New Zealand. That woman, who the Herald on Sunday understands allegedly received money from a few other victims, is then believed to have sent that money on to a man who was also living in New Zealand.

The officer told Joanne the woman had admitted sending the money but had also sent hundreds of thousands of her own money to him. Police had considered charging her for suspected money laundering, but decided to give her a warning.

The officer also told Joanne the man, who the Herald on Sunday understands was allegedly behind the elaborate scam, has left the country.


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It’s understood police have been unable to identify what involvement the man, who is known to police, had in the scam, other than being sent money from the woman who was given a warning.

Joanne told the Herald on Sunday she was “incredibly angry” when police told her the woman had been given a warning.

“This isn’t a teenager who has stolen lollies from the local countdown.

“I’m sorry to the victim, but she willingly knew that numerous amounts of money was coming into her account and she then passed it on to him,” Joanne claims.

Joanne is also upset that the man has been able to leave the country.

She believes “it’s almost like it’s okay to rip people off… why hasn’t someone done something and charged him?”


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“Why didn’t the case go to a judge [to] let a judge decide whether or not someone should be held accountable.”

Joanne will be submitting a complaint about the investigation to the Independent Police Conduct Authority.

She said the last year had been “horrific”.

“My health is worse, my mental health is terrible. I have had a breakdown. I just cry and can not stop. I struggle to leave my house without having terrible panic attacks.

“I am in terrible debt, which means I only sleep three or four hours tops a night as I am up pacing due to stress most of the night.”

She has not told any family or friends, and worries about what will happen when they find out her money is missing.


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She has had to take a job out of town for more money, requiring a lengthy commute.

A police spokesperson confirmed to the Herald on Sunday the woman who received the money before allegedly forwarding it on to the man was not charged.

“Police have investigated this matter thoroughly and, taking into account the circumstances of all individuals involved in this matter – and the Solicitor-General’s prosecution guidelines of prosecution in the public interest – proceeded with a warning.

“Some involved in this matter are overseas, and as such, NZ Police is limited in what further action can be taken.”

When asked if police were able to confirm whether staff were actively utilising overseas authorities to track the man down, the spokesperson said “some broader inquiries are under way”.

Cain, whose identity was used as part of the elaborate scam, told the Herald on Sunday it was “upsetting” to learn that he and other people’s images were being used without their knowledge or permission.


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“It’s even more upsetting to learn that those images are used in tandem with a fake identity for the purpose of taking advantage of people, especially women, preying on them and appealing to their compassionate personalities to extract money from them,” he claimed.

“It is sad to know we live in a world where people, for a living or just for sport, take advantage of others with no regard for those they hurt,” he claimed.

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