Romance & Cyber Criminals
You will probably have heard of cyber criminals – criminals that specialise in online crime – and perhaps even today’s topic, the Romance Scam Stories. Most likely, you will also be aware that these cyber criminals got involved with online businesses and individuals as soon as the internet first appeared and rapidly spread throughout the world.
We all know that online services and websites make it easy for us to pay bills, shop, make online reservations and even work. You can do any of these actions from anywhere in the world.
Old boundaries and human oppositions were removed in order for us to have access to almost any information – our lives became so much easier.
Unfortunately, the same thing is true for the criminals and cyber criminals in particular.
This freedom to access a wide range of online services and locations also makes us vulnerable, because that “open door” provided access in both directions!
These days, criminal minds can reach further than ever before, into our private lives, our homes and work offices – and there is little we can do to stop it.
Cyber criminals can use malicious software to attack weak points that are present in almost all the programs and apps (even in the popular Windows operating systems), or they will use ingenious phishing scams deployed from unexpected regions of the world, where justice can’t easily reach out to catch the criminals.
The most common ways for you to become vulnerable to a malware attack or phishing scam take place when you are:
- shopping online
- checking your emails
- accessing your social media sites
We must not forget their final target is always our money and there is nothing they won’t do to accomplish their mission.
You may think that you can’t be fooled by these online scams, since some of them are almost unbelievable, such as the one promising to send you money or the one where the scammers pretend to be FBI agents.
But, in reality, some stories are so convincing for the potential victims that it is difficult to know how to deal with them.
Since some scams are so well organised and convincing, and the people behind them so difficult to catch, we need to always keep our guard up. Stay informed about the latest scamming strategies by visiting this website, Powerful Affiliate, regularly.
The Romance Scam Stories
How many of us have already been fooled by this one? Since this one addresses our subjective self and not our rational side, we tend to drop our guard and leave aside any logical analysis.
This scam takes place on social dating networks, like Facebook, or by sending a simple email to the potential target.
The male scammers are often located in West Africa, while the female scammers are mostly from the eastern parts of Europe. The truth is however, unless they are in contact with you on Skype, they could be male or female giving you pictures to suit their scam story.
Cyber criminals have used this scamming method for years by abusing the online dating services. They work and improve their approach by just testing the potential victims’ reactions to a variety of questions like these:
- I am looking for a sincere relationship
- Are you married?
- Age doesn’t matter
- May I have your email address and Skype number?
- What do you work at?
- And so on……
This scheme or this game may take place for hours, days, months or more in order to gain your trust.
Eventually, in some cases within hours, you will be asked to help the scammer. They will have built up a particular story and they then ask for money…..could be for food, rent, passport, air fare or hospital bills…
They will ask for photographs of you and they will give you photographs. The photographs they give will be related to the story they are telling – for example, if they want money for hospital bills – photos showing facial injuries or similar will be sent.
However, if you are a man using messaging, most likely they will start with some photos of the very attractive woman you are in contact with – needless to say you could be in contact with a male or a female and the photo(s) could have come from anywhere! The photos will later change to suit the story or conversation they are having with you.
In some cases the scam can go for several months and even up to the moment when a meeting is arranged. When this happens, two things may take place:
- an “unpredictable” event occurs and the scammer needs money as soon as possible for his/her passport or other details.
- if the victim comes from a rich family, he/she may be kidnapped and a large sum of money could be requested from the family.
An Actual Case
In a recent romance scam case that was publicised, a woman lost £1.6 million after she met two con-men on a dating site. In this case, the criminal relentlessly tried to strike up a conversation with the woman on Skype until, eventually she answered, and the scam progressed from there.
Between March and December 2014, the victim paid £1.6 million into numerous bank accounts, with the money then transferred into various personal accounts……..for the full story click HERE
Police say, romance scams are not the most prevalent fraud but the financial and emotional impact on victims is huge.
Victims have been known to borrow money from friends and family to pay the criminals. Victims then feel embarrassed and ashamed when they realise they have been duped, so they often don’t even report what has happened to them or even confide in a friend.
Instead, they should understand that they are not foolish and they are not alone – the reality is that the fraudsters are extremely manipulative and go to great lengths to convince their victims they are in love and desperately in need of their financial assistance.
Remember, that any stranger who approaches you on a chat site, via email or any other way could potentially be a fraudster.
You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately. If you met on an dating site they will try and move you away from the site and communicate via chat or email.
Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. For example, their profile picture looks different to their description of themselves, or they say they are university educated but their English is poor.
After gaining your trust – often waiting weeks, months or even years – they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
Their messages are often poorly written, vague and may even address you by the wrong name.
If you don’t send money straight away, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you do send money, they continue to ask you to send more.
They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can’t travel to meet you and why they always need more money.
How To Avoid Online Dating Scams
#1 -Approach may be a scam
Always consider the possibility that an approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs listed above appear. Try to remove the emotion from your decision making, no matter how caring or persistent the ‘prospective partner’ is.
#2 – Do an image search
Do an image search of your admirer to help determine if they really are who they say they are. You can use image search services such as Google or TinEye. They often originate in Ghana, west Africa and there is a Ghana romance scams photo gallery on Google where images can also be checked.
#3 – Be alert to mistakes
Be alert to things like spelling and grammar mistakes, inconsistencies in their stories and others signs that it’s a scam like their camera never working if you want to Skype each other.
#4 – Be cautious with personal details
Be cautious when sharing personal pictures or videos with prospective partners, especially if you’ve never met them before. Scammers are known to blackmail their targets using compromising material. Scammers can also use your information and pictures to create a fake identity or to target you with a scam.
#5 – Do not travel overseas to meet
If you agree to meet a prospective partner in person, tell family and friends where you are going. You should not travel overseas to meet someone you have never met before.
#6 – Avoid any up-front payment requests
Avoid any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via money order, wire transfer, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency. It is rare to recover money sent this way.
#7 – Money laundering
Do not agree to transfer money for someone else: money laundering is a criminal offence.
#8 – See through the sob stories
Con artists will tell you tales to pluck at your heartstrings, with a view to gaining your trust and sympathy. Sometimes they will ask for money to help them through a difficult situation. These are lies to get you to send them money.
#9 – Don’t be fooled by a photo
Anyone can send a picture which supports a story they are spinning. Scammers will quite often use the same story and send the same photo to multiple victims. You may be able to find evidence of the same scam posted on anti-fraud websites by other victims.
#10 – Keep your money in your bank account
Be wary of requests for money. Never send money or give credit card details, online account details, or copies of important personal documents to anyone you don’t know or trust, no matter how strongly you feel about them. No one who loves you will ask you to hand over your life savings and get into debt for them.
#11 – Question their questions
Suspects will pay you a lot of compliments and ask you a lot of questions about your life, yet tell you very little themselves beyond a few select tales. Never disclose your personal details, such as bank details – this leaves you vulnerable to fraud.
#12 – Don’t keep quiet
Sometimes scammers will ask you to keep your relationship secret but this is just a ruse to stop you talking to someone who will realise you are being scammed. If you are concerned that you are being scammed, stop communicating with the fraudsters and report it to police immediately.
If you think you have been scammed, report it to the website, app, or social media site where the scammer first approached you. Let them know the scammer’s profile name and any other details that may help them to stop others being scammed.
If you think you have provided your account details to a scammer, contact your bank or financial institution immediately.
We encourage you to report scams to the Police as quickly as possible, with details of the scam contact you received, for example, email or screenshot.
Online scams have been developed using increasingly sophisticated means of deceiving users, especially in the rich Western countries.
According to FBI, online scams have increased over the last 10 years and the total losses doubled in the recent years, affecting both private individuals and large scale businesses.
For this reason, cyber criminal activities are now subject to federal investigations and are treated as a very serious problem that affects us all.
Have you met some of the above scams while browsing or in your email inbox?
What were the most convincing ones?
I would love to hear about your experience and, you know what, it could help someone else avoid the same trouble.
I hope this will help while you are doing your business and personal tasks online.
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So there you have it for now!
Thank’s for visiting.
Cheers for now and stay safe.