Nigeria online dating site crimes

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    What Are Online Romance Scams

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    Woman catches online dating scam

    Tap here to turn on desktop notifications to get the news sent straight to you. The scammers may just have lit upon the perfect crime: They sit at computers safely overseas, hunting for their prey on social networks, and they rarely get caught. Jones is a victim too: His name and photos were stolen to create the fake identities used in romance scams. The odds of recovering that money, the bureau notes, are very low.

    Some of the money scammed by international criminal networks even winds up in the hands of terrorist operations like Boko Haram, according to Interpol. This is crazy, I know!

    We also talked with members of a cottage industry that has sprung up to support the defrauded: And we spoke to FBI investigators, academics and researchers who study cyberfraud. Like Warnack, she still struggles emotionally to accept what happened. The two men in Nigeria pleaded guilty for their roles in scamming the Texas woman in July and were sentenced to three years in prison. Over the next two years, she sent more money in response to each new story he told her, she said, because, after all, they were in love.

    The Most Likely Victims According to FBI data, 82 percent of romance scam victims are women and women over 50 are defrauded out of the most money. Using fake profiles on online dating sites and social networks, including Facebook, scammers troll for the lonely and the vulnerable. They promise love and marriage and build what feels like a very real relationship to the victim.

    Someone who has fallen for a scam before is a favored mark. Those names and identities are often sold to other criminals. A Federal Trade Commission study published in found another telling commonality among all kinds of fraud victims: And should they wise up, they may be threatened and blackmailed by their faux lovers. The scammer may even admit the crime to the victim, but then swear he has actually fallen in love with her.

    More than one woman has wound up charged with crimes. Victims live around the globe. Ruth Grover, nigeria online dating site crimes lives in northeast England, runs ScamHatersa website that posts warnings about online profiles that appear to be scammers. Many victims there and elsewhere are not wealthy and must borrow the money they send to the scammers.

    While Nigerian scams targeting an international audience in particular predate the internet, as The Guardian reported in January, the advent of social networks and email has broadened the potential victim list and changed the game. These scammers are not just young people set on a career criminal path. The video shows luxury cars bearing license plates for each day of the week, beautiful women and expensive liquor on tap, and dollars carelessly tossed on the floor like confetti.

    Many of the early online scams were run out of pay-per-hour internet cafes, some of which would even shut down to the public while the larger scamming operations took over. With better and cheaper internet connections these days, scammers can often work from home. They cast a Vodun spell, which is akin to voodoo, to essentially hypnotize their victims into giving up the money. Scammers often work in teams of five or six, with each member playing a specific role, according to experts who study and prosecute online fraud.

    One person opens communication as the faux lover. Teammates sometimes impersonate a doctor or a nurse demanding to be paid after a medical emergency. Or they pose as work associates or friends of the paramour, to whom the victim can send the money. It is all scripted: The criminals can download their scripts off plenty of online sites. Last year, a year-old British woman was sentenced to two years in prison for being a scriptwriter for romance scammers.

    One script she wrote tried to capitalize on an American tragedy. The scammer was supposed to say: He made it out of the collapsed building but he later died because of heavy dust and smoke and he was asthmatic.

    When the victim seeks a face-to-face meeting, the script offers creative ways for scammers to say no or to cancel later.

    Sometimes thousands of phony online identities are created from one set of stolen photos. Soldiers represent protection, another appealing trait. The Army Criminal Investigation Command CID receives hundreds of complaints a month from victims who say they formed an online relationship with someone claiming to be a U. There are no circumstances in which a member of the U.

    When it comes to photo theft, rank offers no privileges. Campbell was the top U.


    Campbell, now retiredtook to Facebook to warn people after he and his staff uncovered more than fake profiles using his image in the first six months after he took over the U. Jones Without his knowledge, Dr. Of course, men who are drawn into these scams come from many walks of life.

    In the case of Dr. A good part of his life is spent dodging these heartbroken women, some of whom who think he personally ripped them off. One woman made an appointment for hypnosis with his New York office.

    She showed up with color printouts of his photos that she believed he had sent her. When Jones posted on his real Facebook page that HuffPost wanted to speak with women who had been bilked by scammers using his name, more than 50 responded in less than 24 hours. He also posted this public service announcement on YouTube about how to avoid being scammed. The Facebook photos of Las Vegas resident Michael Besson were also stolen and used to create hundreds of fake profiles on Facebook and other sites.

    One woman from a small town in Illinois showed up at the door of his home, he said. He said his motive in speaking publicly was simple: Courtesy of Michael Besson This photo of Michael Besson with his daughter has appeared on hundreds of scammers' profiles.

    Scammers Play In Social Media Social media and dating sites, where people volunteer details about their personal lives, are a natural habitat for scammers. Dating sites appear to be aware of the role they play, however unintentionally, in romance fraud.

    It is standard for such sites to disclaim any responsibility for fake profiles that appear. An industry executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told HuffPost that some sites fight back surreptitiously. They block users who they suspect are scammers without telling them. Any money paid is returned on the back end to the presumably stolen credit card.

    Victims need to be told: If the person is not willing to meet them in the first month, move on to find someone who will! Zooska dating app with 40 million online profiles and members in 80 countries, lets users make a video of their face with the app that a human moderator will then view and match up with the submitted photos. Many scam victims told HuffPost that they feel Facebook is not sufficiently proactive when it comes to weeding out and blocking the fraudsters.

    The site asks users to report posts or messages that ask them to inappropriately share personal information or send money. Nigeria online dating site crimes declined to discuss how many reports it receives. The issue of what responsibility social networks, including Facebook, bear for enabling scammers is one that troubles many victims.

    Grover, of ScamHaters, thinks that Facebook could be more cooperative in policing its site. Facebook declined to respond to questions regarding its general criteria for removing pages or why it has taken down some specific sites, but individuals do appear to be using the site to facilitate financial scams. It had grown to almost 1, members over the course of several hours.

    When it was reported, Facebook took it down. Facebook But as nigeria online dating site crimes as one page is removed, another seems to replace it. HuffPost also found this page called Yahoo Boys, which Facebook has since removed. But, he noted, sometimes it is done more openly.

    Two of the five were taken down before we could screenshot them; here are the three that remained. Scam victim sites suggested that the man in the photo is actually a singer in the U. Screenshots of Facebook pages These Facebook profiles existed simultaneously, all using the same photo. Facebook declined to comment on the specifics of these screenshots. For example, when someone receives a friend request, our systems are designed to check whether the recipient already has a friend with the same name, along with a variety of other factors that help us determine if an interaction is legitimate.

    The FBI said it does not comment on the policies and practices of private companies, and a Justice Department spokesman said that as a matter of policy, it would not publicly discuss prosecution strategies.

    Jones, the hypnotherapist whose photos are regularly lifted from Facebook, argues however that if the site really tried, it could quash the problem entirely.

    He thinks that the large sites have programs in place that thwart scams pre-emptively and thus reduce the risk to users. Still, ZeroFox conducted a study of money scams on Instagram last year and found that scams were being created at an estimated rate three times higher than the rate at which they were being taken down.

    United Kingdom Modern 419 Scam- Documentary

    Every digital device connected to the internet has an Internet Protocol address, a unique set of numbers that reveals, among other information, the country in which it is connected. Anyone can check an IP addressthough some browser nigeria online dating site crimes will send an alert if someone is doing that. So savvy scammers use a virtual private network to hide their IP addresses.

    Scammers like to move their conversation with their victims off Facebook or online dating services and onto other messaging platforms where, unbeknownst to their victims, they can organize all their communications.

    Leaving Facebook as soon as possible also protects the scammer from the risk that their fake profile may be reported and taken down. Scammers never want to appear on camera in a live video chat, but will sometimes send a prerecorded video that shows what a loving dad they are or how handsome they look captaining their sailboat.

    Obviously, these videos are stolen, too. There are multiple YouTube videos on how to do it. Virtual Cam Whoresa service that creates customizable video, can also add a layer of authenticity.
    After a rough divorce the year before, she was thrilled to meet a man who shared her religion, interests, and love of children and animals.

    Then one day Eric called in a panic, saying his passport had been stolen. Candace wired him the small sum without hesitation — but when he contacted her a few weeks later saying he needed a much bigger sum to pay legal bills, she realized she was being scammed.

    Her whole relationship with Eric was a scheme to get money out of her. This story is fictional, but the scenario is all too real. More than 14, Americans fell victim to this kind of scam inup from fewer than 6, in And that number may only represent a fraction of the real total. Some catfishers use these fake identities to annoy or harass others online, or just to flirt without commitment. They lure their victims into an online relationship and use it to get money out of them — sometimes thousands of dollars.

    How Romance Scammers Operate Romance scammers work by setting up fake profiles on dating sites and social media.

    They usually claim to have jobs that keep them outside the country for long periods of time, such as working on an oil rig, serving in the military, or working for a nonprofit. Next, they seek out victims — usually people who are lonely and vulnerable — and work to build up relationships with them.

    They can spend months winning over their victims with regular conversations, long e-mails, poetry, gifts, and declarations of love — everything except face-to-face meetings. Often, they rely on pre-written scripts that tell them exactly what to say at what point in the relationship. Next, the scammers start asking for money. Once they know the victim is hooked, they pretend to go through some kind of crisis that requires a large amount of cash to fix, such as a robbery, a medical or legal problem, a frozen bank account, or a business opportunity.

    Often, they work with accomplices who pose as friends, doctors, lawyers, or other people who can back up their story. The victims are often happy to pay because they think helping out their love interest will make it easier for them to finally meet in person. Instead, the scammer continues to string the victim along with more requests for money, sometimes keeping up the fraud for years.

    When the victim finally wises up — or runs out of money — the scammer disappears. In a few cases, the scam continues even after the victim catches on. Then they use their emotional hold over the victim to lure them into helping them with their crimes — sometimes even turning them into accomplices in other scams.

    Profile of a Scammer Many romance scammers operate outside the United States. According to HuffPost, most of them are located in Ghana and Nigeria, but an increasing number originate in communities of West African immigrants in Canada, Malaysia, and Britain.

    To make this kind of money, romance scammers often have multiple victims on the hook at once. HuffPost cites a case in which a single person was working 25 online romance scams at once, posing as both men and women.

    Some of the most successful scammers have extracted tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars from a single victim. Profile of a Victim Romance scams can affect anyone. Barb Sluppik, who runs the watchdog site RomanceScams. However, some people are more likely to be targeted than others. Most victims of romance scams are women. Residents of Developed Nations. Scammers find their victims all over the world.

    However, they tend to target people nigeria online dating site crimes in developed nations, who are more likely to have money to spare. However, in the area of relationships, they tend to be impulsive and open to persuasion from others.

    Examples include job loss, divorce, the death of a loved one, or a medical crisis in the family. During this experience, they lived in denial, finding ways to excuse the abusive behavior or even blocking out all memory of it. Thus, they were more likely to turn a blind eye to the warning signs of a romance scam, coming up with excuses for the suspicious behavior like they had done in the past. Victims of Previous Scams. Romance scammers also like to prey on people who have been victimized before.

    You might think that being scammed once would make people more cautious in the future, but often, their response is just the opposite. The University of Exeter study found that people who have fallen for one scam are consistently more likely to show interest in another. Scammers can also cause a lot of trouble for the people — usually men — whose images they steal to create their fake identities. Also, the image of a strong soldier protecting his country tends to appeal to women seeking love online.

    HuffPost reports that General John F. Campbell had his image used in more than fake profiles in the space of six months after assuming control of the U. Jones, had not only his image but his entire identity stolen by scammers. Jones now runs an entire Facebook group dedicated nigeria online dating site crimes exposing scammers who have used his image to defraud women. However, because so many of these crimes go unreported, this is probably only a fraction of the real total.

    These devastating financial losses are far from the only dangers romance scams pose to their victims. Victims of romance scams often end up abetting the scammers in other crimes.

    Scammers may use their victims to launder stolen money, transport drugs or stolen nigeria online dating site crimes, or even help them scam others. In other cases, the victims are so emotionally dependent on the scammers that they willingly enter into a life of crime to help them. In other cases, they simply demand money from the victims in exchange for a promise to keep the photos private.

    Sunmola extracted money from at least two of his victims by blackmail and then posted their nude photos online anyway. Scammers living overseas sometimes lure their victims out of the country, where they can face all kinds of dangers.

    Some, like Armstrong, end up in foreign prisons, while others are kidnapped and held for ransom. Some even end up dead. A study in Criminology and Criminal Justice found that for most victims, the loss of a relationship they thought was genuine is more devastating than the financial loss.

    Many victims described the experience as traumatic, and most reported that friends and family showed little understanding or support.

    HuffPost reports that some romance scam victims have attempted or committed suicide. Becoming a Repeat Target. They then sell those lists to other criminals, exposing their victims to additional scams. However, for people who know what to look for, there are often red flags that reveal something is amiss. Here are some warning signs that your online flame could be a scammer: Scammers go out of their way to make themselves appealing to their victims.

    Their Profiles Are Scanty. Building a consistent fake identity from scratch is tricky, so many scammers keep their online profiles to a bare minimum. The few friends they have are usually accomplices in the con — people you might hear from later when your new love starts asking for money. Their English Is Limited. Because most romance scammers operate in foreign countries, their English skills are often limited.

    Romance scammers try to move the online romance forward as fast as possible. They declare their love for the victim quickly, sometimes after just one or two conversations.

    They Move the Conversation to Another Site. Although scammers typically meet their victims through dating sites or social media, they prefer not to pursue the relationship through these channels. Instead, they persuade their victims to communicate through e-mail or messaging apps.

    This makes it easier for them to keep their real identity hidden and also allows them to organize all their communications with their various victims. They usually claim to be living outside the country — traveling, working abroad, or stationed overseas as part of the military.

    They Forget Important Details. Because online romance scammers often have multiple victims on the hook at once, they sometimes have trouble keeping all their stories straight.

    Scammers often ask their victims for intimate photos or videos, which they later use as blackmail. The biggest, brightest red flag of all is that your online lover keeps asking you for money to deal with one emergency or another. They have health problems, emergency travel expenses, losses from a robbery or other crime, family emergencies, and so on. Protect Yourself From Online Romance Scams None of this means that finding love online is impossible; however, it pays to be careful.

    How to Avoid Being Scammed Here are a few tips experts recommend to protect yourself when meeting people online: Check Out Their Story. When you first meet someone, do a little digging to see if they are who they claim to be. Run their name through a search engine and see what pops up. Do an Image Search. Ask lots of questions and learn as much as you can about them. Meet in Real Life. Lay out the whole situation to a family member or friend and ask whether it seems suspicious to them.

    Those images you thought were private could be used to blackmail you later. However, be aware that if the person on the other end really is a scammer using a false name, enforcing the agreement could be difficult or even impossible. Steve Jones, the New York man who had his image stolen for hundreds of fraudulent profiles, has posted a public service announcement on YouTube about nigeria online dating site crimes to protect yourself from this form of identity theft.

    Check out their profiles to see how many friends they have, and especially how many friends they have in common with you. Another way to protect yourself is to run periodic reverse-image searches for your own photos. Search online to find instructions for doing this on different dating and social media sites. However, there are a few things you can do to improve the odds of recovering your cash, catching the criminal, and protecting yourself in the future:

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