FBI warns of romance scams using online daters as money mules

We use cookies and other tracking technologies to improve your browsing experience on our site, show personalized content and targeted ads, analyze site traffic, and understand where our audiences come from. To learn more or opt-out, read our Cookie Policy. A report from cybersecurity company Agari claims to expose one corner of the multimillion-dollar romance scam industry: a Nigerian fraud ring it dubs Scarlet Widow. As with other romance scams, members of Scarlet Widow created numerous fake personas to bait lonely men and women into online relationships. Scarlet Widow created profiles on mainstream dating sites and apps, allegedly beginning in It also trawled specialized networks whose users might be particularly lonely or vulnerable, including sites for divorcees, people with disabilities, and farmers in rural areas.

Romance scam

As the number of dating sites and social media apps has gone up , so too has the number of romance scams reported — from 17, in , 11, in , and 8, in The Cut spoke to the victim of one such scam, Debby Montgomery Johnson, now 60, who lost more than a million dollars to a scammer between and How did you meet the man who would eventually scam you?

In those first weeks, she exchanged messages and a few stories with men, and even met some for husband or lunch. But episode clicked – either they weren’t her​.

Men and women looking for prospective romantic partners online should take note of these two: Laura Cahill, who described herself as an aspiring young model living in Paris, and Britney Parkwell, who pointed to her relative youth as a year-old from sunny San Jose, California. There’s one big problem: Despite profiles that said they were seeking love online, they never existed. They were fake personas created as part of an elaborate scheme run out of Africa to con hundreds of thousands of dollars from vulnerable Americans, according to the California-based cyber-security firm Agari.

A firm report details how men and women were targeted by fraudsters. Crane Hassold, the senior. In the report, researchers warn that individuals and businesses are “far more likely to be targeted by West African crime groups” than by hackers working for the Russian or North Korean governments.

Internet romance scammers know what their victims are longing to hear, expert says

Romance scams are the type of cybercrimes most people are sure they would never fall for. You make a long-distance love connection, but soon you’re being asked for money. To understand why it still works, it helps to talk to a victim. Few people in her life know this story, and she wants to keep it that way.

Suspect Busted for Allegedly Ripping Off Woman on Dating App believed she was in an “online dating relationship” with a man whom she met on the app Stories that affect your life across the U.S. and around the world.

We respect your privacy. All email addresses you provide will be used just for sending this story. Just over a year ago, the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—had pleaded guilty to conning tens of millions of dollars from Americans via online dating sites. According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud.

The FBI says it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, so the real numbers are probably higher. As one result, fear of a horrible first date is just one of the things a would-be online dater has to worry about. Eventually a pitch for money comes. Often the scammer will say an emergency situation has arisen and money is needed fast to avoid dire consequences.

This makes it hard for the victim to do due diligence. The scammer might say that an immediate family member has a medical emergency and needs money for treatment, or that he has been wrongly arrested and needs help with bail money and legal support. Run a search. Copy the images your online correspondent has posted to his or her profile, then run them through a reverse-image search engine, such as TinEye or Google Images.

The website Scamalytics maintains a blacklist of scammers who use false pictures.

Nigerian man convicted in online dating scheme gets 10 years

In March , a man claiming to be a US Army captain stationed in Syria reached out to a Japanese woman on an international site for digital pen pals. The man who called himself Terry Garcia asked for money — lots of it — from the woman identified as FK in federal court documents. But in reality, Garcia did not exist. Of those, 17 people have been arrested in the US so far and federal investigators are trying to track down the rest in Nigeria and other nations.

The whirlwind online romance between FK and Garcia was all conducted on a Yahoo email address with no phone calls. He said he was injured and could not do it himself — and introduced her to associates he said would help facilitate the transfer, court documents allege.

Online dating sites have helped millions meet a soul mate. Real Identity Theft Stories | Case # Romancing the Stones: Fraudster Woos Online Lover up by a ring of cyber thieves operating in Los Angeles and Nigeria.

The woman secured a loan through her bank and gave the man access to an account where she deposited the money. Evesham investigators tracked the suspect down using ATM cameras. Sulaimon Kadelu, 30, of Old Bridge Township, was charged with 2nd-degree theft and 2nd-degree money laundering. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission warned consumers that romance-related scams have surged recently and generated more losses than any other consumer fraud reported to the agency last year.

The number of these romance scams reported to the agency jumped from 8, in to more than 21, in Romance scams vary but criminals typically find their victims online, through a dating site or social media. Scammers create a phony profile, often building a believable persona with the help of a photo of someone else and direct communication. They woo the victim, building affection and trust until they see an opportunity to ask for money, according to police.

The reason for the request can run the gamut but money to pay for a medical emergency or travel costs for a long-awaited visit are common. Some victims report sending money repeatedly for one false crisis after another, according to the FTC. The money is often wired or given as gift cards, which allow the criminals quick and anonymous access to cash that cannot be easily tracked.

Anyone can be a victim, experts warn. But FTC data found romance scams happened most often to those in the 40 to 69 age group.

Online Dating Fraud

I have added this page because it is important to speak out and be heard about what has happened to you. This page is not for photographs they are stolen or details, and is not meant to be a database of scams or scammers, but more the personal expression of what has happened and the impact of that. If you would like to add your story here, please email it to me and let me know you would like it published.

For readers, remember, these are not my views, but the views of the victims, in their words. It took courage to share them here. Little did I know that this man would become as dear to me as anyone I had ever known, in as little as a month.

What It’s Like to Lose a Million Dollars to an Online Dating Scam Instantly, when I saw him, the romantic story [we’d built] was gone. here to the United States [he’d told her he was in Nigeria], we can’t do anything for you.

We are living in the age of the scam. Catfishing, advanced video fakery, multilevel marketing, Instagram lifestyle gurus, the Fyre Festival, Dirty John , Trump Moscow, a pyramid scheme involving actual pyramids : scratch any news story these days, and fraud falls out. But what are these scammers really thinking? And what is it like to be one of their victims?

We talked to ten people who have been on many sides of the equation to find out what motivates scammers and how they pulled it off, at least for a while , hear the stories of those whose lives were thrown off-balance by a con—and find out how some anti-scam vigilantes try to bring the liars down. I had always wanted to be a different kind of writer.

After my husband died, I left San Diego and traveled the world for a while. When I got back from my travels, I decided to form a writing community with a partner. It was Our mission was to create a gathering place for writers and readers and people who wanted to learn to write.

Dating scammer photos

Sh’reen Morrison had been on an online dating site for only a few weeks before she realized that something was seriously wrong with the man who had been actively pursuing her by text message and email. They’d hit it off right away, and he said he lived just outside of Phoenix, which seemed relatively proximate to a woman in remote Yuma, Ariz.

But meeting in person was always a problem. First, he was traveling through India with his daughter. Then the daughter became ill and had to be hospitalized.

Online dating investigation site Social Catfish helps break down how Nigerian dating scam rings operate and how to stay safe while online dating. the scammers create rather elaborate stories to lure in potential victims.

Clues for spotting fake profiles. One day Georgina received a friend request from a serviceman on peacekeeping duties in Afghanistan. She decided to accept the request and allowed ‘Jim’ to be her Facebook friend. Soon after befriending her, Jim told Georgina he had lost his wife to cancer and his story of looking after her was similar to her own experience when her husband had died of cancer. S military was nearly finished.

He sent me pictures which I now know were stolen from someone on the internet. We became very close and he emailed me every day saying it was easier for him than using Facebook. He said this was the best part of being in Nigeria because it was close to where the precious stones were being mined and he could buy them very cheaply.

Internet dating meme

Earlier this year, 10 people located around the United States were arrested and charged in an organized money laundering scheme as they were attempting to wash the cash that they illegally obtained. What was strange about the scheme is how the money was obtained in the first place. It wasn’t through the trading or trafficking of illegal goods or drugs, but rather cash that was sent by unsuspecting women who thought they were building relationships with the scammers.

This type of thing happens more often than you might think.

Instead, he found “the game” — Nigeria’s shadow economy of scams, named for the article in the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud. Enitan is not the​.

Do you have questions about your vision health? He was the answer to her prayers. Before she knew it, her savings were gone. And the man of her dreams? He might not even exist. A short message sent on a Thursday evening in early December , under the subject line: Match? Check my profile. Later, when she puzzled over their relationship, she’d remember this.

What It’s Like to Lose a Million Dollars to an Online Dating Scam

Scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners, often via dating websites, apps or social media by pretending to be prospective companions. They play on emotional triggers to get you to provide money, gifts or personal details. How this scam works Warning signs Protect yourself Have you been scammed? More information.

MARTIN KASTE, BYLINE: It’s an old grift – older than the Internet. It started about three years ago, after her divorce, when she tried online dating. TEXAS MOM: I started crying, and I said to him, I’ve heard stories about and the police there arrested a group of Nigerians as they picked up the money.

The scammers victimized individuals and small and large businesses. The company thought it was making a payment for an oil extraction equipment order. For example, in a Japanese woman, identified in court documents as F. Army captain stationed in Syria. The Justice Department unsealed the indictment after the arrest of 14 people, including Iro and Igbokwe, early Thursday.

Three others were already in custody. Six defendants remain at large in the United States, while authorities are working with partners in nine other countries to arrest 57 others, most of whom are believed to be in Nigeria. Citing a Justice Department policy, a department spokeswoman declined to say whether the U. Since , Nigeria has extradited three people wanted in the United States. While the sheer number of defendants named in the indictment is extraordinary in an online fraud case, the investigation also shed light on the evolving tactics and growing sophistication of scammers.

MY ONLINE DATING HORROR STORY