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Friday, August 23, 2019

Scam: Online Dating Romance Scam

I am not sure what it is about nigerians and scams - the two seem connected so often. And in this particular case some of the scam nigerians were located in California.

Here is an example - when you report scams to the FTC, how officials do not typically work on individual cases, but look at trends and try to go after the "bigger fish". Romance scams can wipe out the entire savings of elderly people. It takes an orchestrated effort of a group of scammers to successfully pull off romance scams - and they have to succeed at enough of them to support all in the scam group.

Scammers know, with the fake buyer scam we typically see, that if they keep their "take" relatively small and under the radar, the officials don't focus on those cases. So you will typically see them try to steal about $1500-$5000 from their victims. So that is their strategy. Keep the amount of stolen money low and just try and succeed at a lot of them.

Does that mean you don't report yours? No - I would still report any scam where actual money has been lost. You are still contributing to trends and what officials look at. An example is when Texas got hit with a lot of "ransom" scams. The volume was high enough in a targeted area to (a) make the news and (b) get the attention of the authorities.

Okay. So romance scams have red flags to watch out for just like the fake buyer scam. There is a very prescriptive way scammers move through a romance scam. It has a script. Red flags briefly are: (1) their photos to you all seem too good to be true (and are often stolen from online... to an reverse image search on Google or get a family member to help you do one), (b) they typically use a lesser known dating site and send a lot of relentless messages with vague or irrelevant information - typically trying to get you to believe their fake "backstory", (c) relationship is moving too fast - they may even send small token gifts and some go for the long haul - trying to gain your trust over months...but have some reason why meeting face to face is never possible (they will have one last minute excuse one after the other), (d) they WILL ask for money - often a small token amount to begin with, to warm up their victim, and then they will go for larger and larger amounts, typically with some back story - a family member is having a health crisis, a business needs just a little cash flow help, they are trying to get a visa. It is all fake and intended to get your money.

This is a tough scam - they do target lonely and older women and if those lonely older women are not sharing what is happening to them with family members, it is hard to intervene to give them an objective perspective. Usually other family members find out too late. But if you are having an online romance, check to see if any of the photos have been stolen from online and really (your children can help you do a reverse image Google search) - and really - just do not give ANYONE money if you have not met them in real life... and even then there are local scammers and I think it is just not smart to give money to someone in a new relationship. We want to be trusting and kind to others, but first be smart and protective of yourself!

Here is the CNN article they reported on today:

Men in California oversaw a romance scam that targeted women worldwide, feds say

By Faith Karimi, CNN

Updated 6:26 AM ET, Fri August 23, 2019

(CNN) In March 2016, 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.

Within weeks, their relationship grew into an internet romance with the man sending daily emails in English that she translated via Google. The man who called himself Terry Garcia asked for money -- lots of it -- from the woman identified as FK in federal court documents. Over 10 months, she sent him a total of $200,000 that she borrowed from friends, her ex-husband and other relatives to make her love interest happy.

But in reality, Garcia did not exist. It was all an international online scam ran by two Nigerian men in the Los Angeles area with the help of associates in their home country and other nations, federal officials say.

And Thursday, US prosecutors charged 80 people -- mostly Nigerians -- in the widespread conspiracy that defrauded at least $6 million from businesses and vulnerable elderly women.

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.

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