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Friday, 15 January 2016

Love Lorn In London

Not very long ago I posted a story about an American woman called 'Sarah' who refused, despite all the evidence, to believe that she was being fleeced on a monumental scale by African fraudsters, and who continued to send money to her 'Italian American' Internet boyfriend named 'Chris Olsen'.

Of course she is not the first, nor indeed the last woman (or man for that matter), who has, or wiill have fallen for a photograph, and some email spiel, and then coughed up hundreds or thousands of pounds, to pay for a visa bill, or bail request etc to their 'dream lover'. This variation on the old Nigerian 419 fraud is known as the 'rom-scam'.

Romance Scam Alert .....

Recently the UK courts dealt with a Nigerian fraud gang operating out of London (why is that no surprise?). In this case the victim was a wealthy female company director and single mother, who was in her 40's and who lives in the UK. She was the victim in the biggest known rom-scam to-date, and was fleeced out of £1.6 million pounds ($2.3m) .... They used a girl pick up guide called 'The Game', and found her on date site Match.com.

One of the gang posed as 'Christian Anderson' a UK engineer, and they reeled her in. Two of the gang (Ife Ojo and Oluse-gun Agbaje) were caught and found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, after taking at least £45,000 between them from her .... they got 34 and 32 months in prison, but there were other gang members who the police are still hunting (although they have possibly fled the UK), and no more of her £1.6 million has been recovered. The unnamed victim from West London, was reported as saying that "They got what they deserved" ... actually they didn't. They should have got twice the sentence and then been deported.

It appears that there are just two emotions that need to be touched in order to perpetrate an on-line con-fraud .... Greed or Love. If you can touch both in one scam, then you are twice as likely to part the gullible from their money. I had a further look at this, and found more confirmation that it’s the middle-aged and lonely who seem most prone to the date scams ..... in 2011 a UK woman (who I won’t name), was conned out of over £80k on a 'handsome American soldier' who was the creation of yet more Nigerian conmen ... nothing was recovered, and she ended up having to sell her house to pay off her debts. Another UK grandmother lost more than £100,000 to another fake US soldier scam, with the police managing to trace and recover just £13,000, from banks in Nigeria and California.

The scammers modus operandi is always the same ...... create an account on a date site with stolen credit cards, false identities and photos of good-looking white (males normally). Identifying a victim is easy as most members of the dating site wouldn’t be there unless they were lonely and vulnerable, and so picking someone who isn't likely to get any interest i.e. a not good looking woman, will usually get a response. They may groom them for a while, even sending birthday gifts before the inevitable sting ... a request for money. It’s always a sudden crisis that leaves them in urgent need of cash, which can be sent to their current account or even via money transfer.

The Internet Hides A Lot Of Scams .....

In the UK, SOCA (the Serious Organised Crime Agency) has estimated that between £80m – £100m is taken from UK victims .... who are often too embarrassed or ashamed to approach the police or even tell their families. Typically the amounts are fairly modest from £50 to a few hundreds, but in some cases can be in the thousands, or hundreds of thousands (and very exceptionally millions) of pounds. The social media support group ‘Stop the US Army Dating Scam’ said that hundreds of women had been conned. Some sold their cars and re-mortgaged their homes.

Most of the rom-scams still operate from Ghana and Nigeria, but the West African diaspora means that it has spread across the globe. The victims are usually prepared to suspend all disbelief, in the hope that a super good looking man has finally (and against all common sense), stepped into their lives.

The loss of dignity and self-worth when the scam finally becomes clear to them (to say nothing of the poverty or debt it can leave them in) can result in suicides. Others, like Sarah in my original story, simply refuse to accept it’s a con, even when they are shown overwhelming evidence .... SOCA have reported cases of the fraudster finally admitting to his victim that “I know I’m a fraudster, but I still love you”, and as that was all the victim wanted to hear, she continued corresponding with him, and indeed kept sending him money until it all ran out.

In very extreme cases the victims become criminals themselves, money laundering across the globe on behalf of their Internet lover ..... so they can end up in prison, while their abuser gets away.

Some of the scammers make enough to 'reform', one man who now runs a ‘legitimate’ Internet marketing business in Nigeria, only does so because he made more than £50,000 from cheating unsuspecting Western women. He reported to the UK press that he knew of men who had made over £250k (a fortune in Nigeria) from the scams and that ‘Each person has as many as six women at a time. We would search through dating websites such as Yahoo! personals, match.com and singlesnet.com and create an account'.

As this a crime is a far more common con than I first realised, and if after reading this or the earlier story, your a UK resident and you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, then you should contact Action Fraud (www.actionfraud.org.uk, 0300 123 2040) for information on victim support.

There is also information about how to protect yourself against becoming a victim.
  • The number one rule is don’t send any money. Not for anything or any reason.
  • Don’t accept money or hand over your card or bank details. Not for anything or any reason.
  • If you are using a dating website, use the designated area to chat. Never agree to leave that safe area and start emailing someone direct.
  • Report any suspicions to both the site and the police, asap. 
Take care out there ladies ....

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for the advice. I don't think I'll need it however as my friend is a real Nigerian princess who is already fabulously wealthy and just needs a few hundred pounds to get her fortune out of the country.

    ReplyDelete
  2. 'I got this email from the Spanish Lottery yesterday. They just need €10,000 euro for legal fees and I get €20m. Of course I have never bought a ticket and I last went to Spain in 1987, but I am sure it's genuine .....'

    What idiots some people really are. 'One born every minute' and 'a fool and their money' are soon parted, are proverbs that are just as true today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Harsh but sadly both truisms are valid. Some people seem determined to lose their money one way or another and as I mentioned, blind 'greed' is one of the drivers. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
    2. However stupid some victims insist on being, scamming remains a crime and should be addressed. If the easy targets cease to be then the scams would move into a higher gear netting some of the more skeptical. I heard that some scams have bad spelling intentionally to filter out the less gullible, I don't know if I beleeve that.

      Delete
    3. Listen if you want to believe the impossible such as winning a lottery you have never entered, in a country you have not been to. Or that you have been selected (and your email traced) by a corrupt Nigerian prince smuggling money illegally out his country, then you deserve to lose your money.

      You are acting illegally yourself and are helping a criminal.

      You just happen to be more stupid than the Africans who are reeling you in.

      These frauds are not sophisticated and rely on greed or stupidly by the victims. They will never run out of either of those types of victims.

      Delete

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