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Perhaps it was even Alexander, finding me via Beth's followers. The platform said impersonating a person or organisation is against its guidelines, and that such accounts are deleted once it is made aware of them. A quick search reveals that there are plenty out there though. There are people who work to try to help romance scam victims, and they hear plenty of horror stories. She was later killed by her husband. Mr Nicas tracked Ms Holland's scammer down to Nigeria - where romance scammers are rife.

There young men work sometimes in groups, sometimes individually, and pretend to be both men and women online. He interviewed a man called Akinola Bolaji, a year-old Nigerian who said he had once been a "Yahoo Boy", as romance scammers are colloquially known. Five will comply. Out of the five, three may not have money. Two will have.

Out of two, one may not be able to spend money. But one will surely send. He confessed to feeling guilty about the practice. Mr Bolaji claims to have stopped romance scamming because he is now in a genuine relationship with a lady in the US state of Georgia. We only have his word for it. In the few weeks that Alexander was messaging my friend Beth, he did not ask for any cash.

That is not surprising, says Mr Nicas. Beth is adamant that she would not have sent any - but scammers are super-persuasive, says Ms Forte. I think we're all vulnerable to it in the right situation. US 'scam hostage' freed after year in Nigeria hotel. Loneliness and lockdown exploited in romance scams. It happened to my friend Beth. He was almost certainly not the man in the photo.

Telling Beth was hard. In fact, telling someone else is probably your best chance of not getting sucked in. US 'scam hostage' freed after year in Nigeria hotel Loneliness and lockdown exploited in romance scams. Faking it. For scammers it's worth the risk, as the pay-out can be huge. Horror stories. She'd grown up here, in a conservative pocket of Virginia.

Her brothers and their families lived nearby. When it came to meeting new people, however, her choices were limited. Friends urged her to try online dating. And, reluctantly, she did. At first, she just tiptoed around the many dating sites, window-shopping in this peculiar new marketplace. The choices were overwhelming. It wasn't until the fall that Amy was ready to dive in.

The holidays were coming, and she didn't want to face them alone. She signed up for a six-month subscription to Match. She filled out a questionnaire and carefully crafted her profile. It would have been easy to burnish the truth, but she presented herself honestly, from her age 57 and hobbies "dancing, rock collecting" to her financial status "self sufficient". The picture — outdoor photo, big smile — was real, and recent.

And her pitch was straightforward:. Looking for a life partner … successful, spiritually minded, intelligent, good sense of humor, enjoys dancing and travelling. No games! In those first weeks, she exchanged messages and a few calls with men, and even met some for coffee or lunch.

But nothing clicked — either they weren't her type or they weren't exactly who they said they were. This seemed to be one of the problems with online dating. She resolved to be pickier, only contacting men who were closely matched — 90 percent or more, as determined by the algorithm pulling the strings behind her online search. She didn't really understand how it worked. Back in college, she'd studied computer science and psychology, and she considered herself pretty tech-savvy.

She had a website for her business, was on Facebook, carried a smartphone. But who knew exactly how these online dating services worked? Then she saw this guy, the one with a mysterious profile name — darkandsugarclue. The photo showed a trim, silver-haired man of 61 with a salt-and-pepper beard and Wayfarer-style shades.

He liked bluegrass music and lived an hour away. More than a week went by with no answer. Then, this message appeared when she logged on to her account. How are you doing today? Thank you so much for the email and I am really sorry for the delay in reply, I don't come on here often, smiles I really like your profile and I like what I have gotten to know about you so far.

I would love to get to know you as you sound like a very interesting person plus you are beautiful. Tell me more about you. In fact it would be my pleasure if you wrote me at my email as I hardly come on here often. He gave a Yahoo email address and a name, Duane. Some of the other men she'd met on Match had also quickly offered personal email addresses, so Amy didn't sense anything unusual when she wrote back to the Yahoo address from her own account.

Plus, when she went back to look at darkandsugarclue's profile, it had disappeared. Your profile is no longer there — did you pull it? As I am recalling the information you shared intrigued me. I would like to know more about you. Please email me with information about yourself and pictures so I can get to know you better. Duane wrote right back, a long message that sketched a peripatetic life — he described himself as a "computer systems analyst" from North Hollywood, California, who grew up in Manchester, England, and had lived in Virginia for only five months.

But much of the note consisted of flirty jokes "If I could be bottled I would be called 'eau de enigma' " and a detailed imaginary description of their first meeting:. It's 11 am when we arrive at the restaurant for brunch.

The restaurant is a white painted weatherboard, simple but well-kept, set on the edge of a lake, separated from it by an expansive deck, dotted not packed with tables and comfortable chairs…. Amy was charmed — Duane was nothing like the local men she'd met so far. And she was full of questions, about him and about online dating in general.

She also mentioned the deception she'd already encountered on previous dates — "lots of false advertising or 'bait and switch' folks," she wrote. I think it is always best to be whom we are and not mislead others. By December 17, they had exchanged eight more emails. Duane suggested they both fill out questionnaires listing not only their favorite foods and hobbies but also personality quirks and financial status. Amy clicked on the link to the song, a torrid ballad that ends with the singer begging his lover to marry him.

Then she rolled it back and listened to it again. An impostor poses as a suitor, lures the victim into a romance, then loots his or her finances. In pre-digital times, romance scammers found their prey in the back pages of magazines, where fake personal ads snared vulnerable lonely hearts. But as financial crimes go, the love con was a rare breed, too time- and labor-intensive to carry out in large numbers.

It could take months or years of dedicated persuasion to pull off a single sting. That has changed. Technology has streamlined communication, given scammers powerful new tools of deceit and opened up a vast pool of potential victims. As of December , 1 in 10 American adults had used services such as Match.

The mainstreaming of online dating is a revolution in progress, one that's blurring the boundaries between "real" and online relationships. But the online-dating boom has also fueled an invisible epidemic. According to the Federal Trade Commission FTC , complaints about impostor ploys such as the romance scam more than doubled between and And that figure is probably low, because many victims never report the crime — or even tell their closest friends and family members that it occurred.

Shame, fear of ridicule and the victim's own denial enforce this contract of silence. The power of the romance scam — its ability to operate undetected and to beguile its victim into a kind of partnership — lies here, in the gulf between what the victim believes and what is actually happening.

Outside the scam, it's almost impossible to explain such irrational behavior. How on earth could you hand over your life savings to a stranger you met on the Internet, someone you've never even seen in real life? When Amy talks about how she fell in love, she always mentions his voice.

It was mesmerizing — musical, clipped, flecked with endearing Britishisms. His writing was like this, too — not just the British-style spellings of words such as "colour" and "favourite," but the way he dropped "sweetie" and "my dear" into every other sentence. They exchanged numbers and began talking every day.

His teenage years in Manchester explained the accent, but there was another sound in there, too, a wisp of something she couldn't place. They spoke of the things you talk about at the beginning of a relationship — hopes, dreams, plans for the future. She opened up about her marriage, her grief, her work, her faith and her conviction that things happened for a reason.

Amy had never met a man who was so passionately curious about her. And she was just as fascinated by Duane. Or was it Dwayne? In his early emails, the spelling seemed to switch. She found his LinkedIn profile — it was short, with just a few connections. There were other curiosities. Amy felt they were in some kind of time warp. She would be fixing breakfast and he'd be talking about going out for the evening. He traveled a lot for his work, he said.

Almost casually, he explained he was calling not from Virginia but from Malaysia, where he was finishing up a computer job. Looking back, would things have been different if he'd said he was in Nigeria? Amy knew all about those people who posed as Nigerian bankers and gulled victims with awkwardly phrased "business opportunities" over spam email. But this was different; Amy loved to travel and knew lots of people from overseas. The fact that Dwayne was living in Malaysia added an exotic note to his "eau de enigma.

Scam central: A former "Yahoo boy" shows how teams of con artists fleece victims from Internet cafes. Born in neighboring Benin, he and his family moved to Nigeria during his childhood and went looking for opportunities in the emerging economic powerhouse of Africa's most populous nation.

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 scammer Amy encountered in ; his fraud career ended in , he says. Since he left scamming, he's spoken out against the practice. But based on his account, the fraud playbook he followed has not changed. He agreed to talk on the condition that he would not be identified by name. Typically, scams are advance-fee frauds — variations of the age-old "Spanish prisoner" gambit, which promises riches to unsuspecting strangers in exchange for a modest payment.

Sent first as printed letters, then as faxes and emails purporting to be from Nigerian officials, these offers are now part of Internet lore. Indeed, they're so well known that ers have adopted a more effective variation — mining dating sites for targets of romance scams. Impostor scams can flourish wherever the Internet exists Eastern Europe and Russia are also hot spots , but most dating fraud originates in Nigeria and Ghana, or in countries such as Malaysia and the U.

In fast-developing parts of the world with high unemployment, a large percentage of English-speaking young men, and a postcolonial legacy of political instability and corruption, playing the game can be a tempting way out.

That's when he drifted in with the legions of other young Nigerian men known as Yahoo Boys, named for their preference for free Yahoo. He learned the con from an older mentor, and he, in turn, passed on his skills to younger friends. Enitan describes a three-stage model.

Using stolen credit card numbers, the scammer would flood dating sites with fake profiles. Victims can be found anywhere — scammers also forage for connections on social media — but dating services provide the most fertile territory. Profile photos are pirated from social media or other dating sites. To snare women, he'd pose as older men, financially secure and often in the military or in engineering professions. For male victims, he just needed a photo of an alluring younger woman: "Guys are easier to convince — they're a bit desperate for beautiful girls.

All his victims, Enitan says, described themselves as divorced or widowed. Ideally, the prospective victim makes the first move. Grooming the victim begins in the second stage. After learning everything he can about his target, he would launch a campaign of love notes and gifts. It feels like the universe is manifesting my perfect partner right before my very eyes. Prayers answered and yes it does seem like we have known each other a long time. Amy wrote that seven days after receiving the first message from Dwayne.

They were on the phone for hours every day at this point. His was the first voice she heard in the morning, and the last before bed. Typically, Amy would talk and text with him until about 11 a. Around 8 p. In their emails, they filled pages with minutiae about their lives — her upcoming holiday trip to Sarasota, Florida, with a girlfriend; his visit to a textile museum in Kuala Lumpur. Mixed amid this were Dwayne's increasingly ardent declarations of affection:. Last night, in my dreams, I saw you on the pier.

The wind was blowing through your hair, and your eyes held the fading sunlight. Florid passages like that did not spring from Dwayne's imagination. He cribbed them from the Internet. Still, on Amy those words cast a powerful spell. That's how she thinks of it now — it was like a switch flicked in her head.

She'd been in love before. But this was different, a kind of manic euphoria. Are you real? Will you appear someday. Or are you just a beautiful, exotic dream … if you are … I don't want to wake up! At the core of every romance scam is the relationship itself, a fiction so improbable that most of us initially marvel in disbelief: How do you fall in love — really fall in love — with someone you never meet?

Until the term "catfishing" crept into the vernacular, love affairs with digital impostors were little-known phenomena. The term comes from the documentary film Catfish , about a man with a girlfriend who, we learn, does not exist; it later inspired an MTV series.

Pretending to be someone else online is a social media parlor game among some young people. But Amy had never seen the show or heard the term; she had no idea the practice was so common. Computer-mediated relationships, she says, can be "hyperpersonal — more strong and intimate than physical relationships.

Research has shown that certain personality types are particularly vulnerable to romance scams. Unsurprisingly, age is a factor: Not only are older victims more likely to lose larger sums of money, there's evidence that our ability to detect deception declines with age. But when she surveyed scam victims in the U. These people tended to describe themselves as romantics and risk takers, believers in fate and destiny.

Many, like Amy, were survivors of abusive relationships. Women were actually slightly less likely to be scammed than men — but were far more likely to report and talk about it. The other term that Amy would later learn is "love bombing. In both situations, the victim's defenses are broken down by exhaustion, social isolation and an overwhelming amount of attention. Amy would later describe the feeling as akin to being brainwashed. This is the painstaking grooming process that Enitan calls "taking the brain.

When she came home from her trip to Florida over the holidays, Amy found a bouquet of flowers waiting for her, and a note:. Not long after this, slightly less than a month since his first contact, Dwayne brought up his money troubles. But some components he purchased from Hong Kong were stuck in customs. He didn't need money, he assured her — he had a hefty trust fund in the U. But he couldn't use his funds to cover the customs fees.

And he couldn't come back to Virginia until he finished the job. He was stuck. So, if there was any way Amy could help him out, he'd pay her back when he returned to the States. When Amy asked for proof of his identity, Dwayne sent copies of his passport and financial documents. All were fake. Finally, Dwayne set a day for his flight home and emailed his itinerary. He'd be there January Amy even bought tickets for their first real date — a Latin dance concert in a nearby city that night.

And she told her brothers and her friends that they would finally get to meet this mystery boyfriend. But first, another problem came up: He had to pay his workers.

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.

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Online dating fears The wind was blowing through your hair, and your eyes held the fading sunlight. Alternatively they may ask you to buy the goods yourself and send them somewhere. Your browsing experience would greatly improve by upgrading to a modern browser. In the meantime, please feel free to search for ways to make a difference in your community at www. A plan to smuggle diamonds. Back in college, she'd studied computer science and psychology, and she considered herself pretty tech-savvy.
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If they are setting you up for a Ponzi scheme or other financial-only fraud, they will push the deal quickly. You are their priority, as you are their next paycheck. Its part of their ploy to seduce you into loving and trusting them.

The more time you spend communicating with them, the faster they can move to the second part of their plan — reeling you in and asking for cash! Just how long are you talking to this person daily, texting and messaging back and forth? When it comes to a Nigerian scammer , the answer will often be upward of 3 or 4 hours daily. Their devotion to you is part of their job. As it is their job, they use tools.

One tool could be translating software like Google Translate, as they attempt to fix or minimize any language barriers between you. Even if they claim to be widowed or have children, they will insist that you are now one of the most important people in their life and part of their future.

They will compliment you and send you romantic, flowery, flattering comments. As we already discussed, the photographs they sent you are fake. How do they do this? Honestly, it is not difficult for a scammer to steal images through Google. They then crop out identifying details and place the photos on their computer desktop or save them in their phone. They might even create a file which contains ready-to-use stolen photographs.

However, they usually select images of people who are attractive enough to seduce the average person, but not so beautiful they might be completely intimidating except scammers who pretend to be fake models or working in porn. Unless the scammer excels at speaking English convincingly, they will avoid talking to you on the phone verbally.

Other times, they will speak to you and send you a video of someone you believe to be them. If they send you a video, they have stolen it from YouTube or Instagram and edited their voice over someone not directly talking to the camera, all to keep up the ruse!

At some point, Nigerian scammers know that you are likely to become suspicious. They need you to believe everything they tell you, without question, so they have props or documents to support their story. While these items might appear authentic at first glance, they are counterfeits which anyone with WiFi and computer access can create through Photoshop or editing apps. The documents they send might be fake job contracts from their oil rig or contracting job , a copy of their passport again, a fake , fraudulent oil contracts, counterfeit professional degrees, fake letters from attorneys, etc.

They might also become passive aggressive and hostile if you continue to question them. They might ask you for a small amount within a week or so of the meeting, to test the waters. For more significant amounts, they may wait several weeks or a month or so, once they are convinced you to trust them. They promise to pay you back, including interest.

What Do They Ask For? As we mentioned, a small item might be a gift card or an iTunes card. Every time you send them something they ask for, they automatically renew their interest in you and will ask again. Some common excuses Nigerian scammers give as to why they need a loan or gift:.

Generally, none. You could be recently widowed, recovering from surgery, or struggling to pay your mortgage and they will not care. They justify it to themselves that you live in the United States and have plenty of money.

They may ask you to send them money from your paycheck, even if you need it, and promise to pay you back before your rent or bills are due. The next thing you know, your bank account will be drained dry. Although Nigerian romance scams are only part of the many scams perpetuated, they are often the most convincing and painful. Continue to refuse and they will seem to switch personalities and behave in an emotionally abusive manner, to try and guilt you into complying.

While this is sometimes true, many scammers make enough money to live well. A scammer might continue the scam by saying they fell in love with you or ask you to accept money from others they are tricking and send it to them. Once you finally refuse all methods of helping them, they will block you and move on.

Social Catfish was recently able to connect with a genuine Nigerian scammer who was willing to be a whistleblower on the entire scamming industry! He shared behind the scenes information with us and produced files that new Nigerian scammers use. The techniques they use are similar to prompts given to people who work in sales jobs. For each response or question you have, their chart lists an answer which a scammer can say to trick you further. They have a script about their goals and motivators, if they smoke or drink, their inspirations, if they believe in true love or like sports, etc.

The most frightening thing of all is that scammers copy and paste these pre-made replies into messages. We like to imagine that people follow the rules because they want to. That is true, to some extent. However, in the West African country of Nigeria, the legal climate is very different than in the United States. For the million people who live in Nigeria, there is little oversight for those who scam others.

It is common to see a big divide between the rich and poor, with fancy neighborhoods surrounded by slums. Roughly around 30 percent of their income goes to bribes bribing government officials, those in the financial field, and skirting law enforcement. With so many criminals on their payroll, no one reports the scammers dirty deeds.

Add to this the fact that many Nigerian people live in slums without running water or electricity, and it is easy to see why young people want the life of a scammer. Some still feel ashamed and hide the truth about what they do from their families, but their crimes help themselves, and their loved ones survive. The EFCC has had some success in arresting crime rings of scammers or fraudulent criminals.

However, the problem is by no means solved and is getting worse yearly. The United States F. The Australian government also has a site called Scamwatch , which lists the total number and type of scams in their area, showing that no country is safe from Nigerian scams. As you will see through the emails sampled below, many of the warning signs that we talk about are used by actual Nigerian scammers.

Here are the warning signs you should look for, so you are never a victim of this type of fraud. Warning Sign 1: Someone you meet online claims to be out of the state, country, or your geographic area. Warning Sign 2: They come on too strong and push you to take immediate action or require secrecy.

Warning Sign 3: They always have an excuse. They still have an explanation as to why they cannot talk on the phone, access cash, pay you back, or see you, etc. Tip: This is because they are in a hurry for you to trust them and get your cash. Some may use the same generic answers with everyone. Warning Sign 5: If you met them on a game, dating site, or app, they immediately push for you to message them on a separate service.

Warning Sign 6: They have a unique way of writing and talking. They write differently and more formally than most, yet claim to be born and raised in America. Usually, people who are dating and falling in love long distance want to video chat all the time. Tip: If they make excuses as to why they cannot get video chat or talk on the phone, be suspicious. Warning Sign 8: Your intuition matters. Warning Sign 9: The biggest red flag is when someone online sends you a request for money.

If this happens on a website, block and report that user to the site, app, or forum you met them on. Filing with the IC3 does not serve as notice to your credit card company regarding unauthorized charges. Contact your credit card company and banking institutions directly.

Steve Weisman from Scamicide has the following to say:. There are various red flags to help you identify romance scams. The most important thing to remember is always to be skeptical of anyone who falls in love with you quickly online without ever meeting you and early into the relationship, who then asks you to wire money to assist them with a wide range of phony emergencies. Here are a few other things to look for to help identify an online romance scam.

Often their profile picture is stolen from a modeling website on the Internet. If the image looks too professional and the person looks too much like a model, you should be wary. You also can check on the legitimacy of photographs by seeing if they have been used elsewhere by doing a reverse image search.

Also, be on the lookout for bad spelling and grammar as many of the romance scammers claim to be Americans, but are foreigners lying about where they are and who they are. Of course, you should be particularly concerned if someone falls in love with you almost immediately. Often they will ask you to use a webcam, but will not use one themselves.

This is another red flag. One thing you may want to do is ask them to take a picture of themselves holding up a sign with their name on it. Also, ask for several pictures because, generally, when the scammers are stealing photos of models from websites, they do not have many photographs. Ask for the image to be at a particular place that you designate to test them further. This will also give them the ability to send one to the victim when asked.

Using this will allow you to view every website that has that photo in their database, giving you the ability to see whether or not that photo is connected to more than one name. If it is, then it is almost certainly stolen. Most online dating scammers are located within another country from far away overseas, which means they have an accent. This, however, cannot go on forever, so if they continue avoiding phone calls over the course of weeks, then this should raise a red flag.

They also avoid phone calls because they will not have a local number, and if they do, it will be an online VOIP number, which would cause suspicion to the average person. They go to the airport ready to hop on a flight, yet when they arrive, they suddenly find out that they lack funds to pay for their Visa. Some may even explain that they need a minimum bank account balance, so when asked to send money for this reason, block and report them right away.

It could be that they simply use overly extravagant words, or that they try too hard to sound perfect. In other words, they attempt to sound extra formal. Most online dating chats are casual at best; especially after a few messages have been exchanged. These are words typically not used in casual chats and are definitely very commonly used by scammers trying to overcompensate and deliver.

It may not be a surprise when we say that online dating scammers do not want to meet you in real life, at least in most cases. Most of the time, these individuals will create a false emergency almost every time the victim asks them to come and visit. This may be hard to notice at first, especially if the scammer is using a good script. However, if they do this more than once or twice, this is obviously a scammer trying to find another victim — unless, of course, he is the unluckiest person on earth.

This would be a great opportunity to video chat with them, so that you can judge his responses when you ask hard questions that may be difficult for him to answer using scripts while on a live call. We usually recommend in some of our guides to request a video chat to people who may suspect they are talking to an online dating scammer; and with reason.

This gives you the ability to really pay attention to their facial expressions and responses, thus giving you the ability to judge their responses and determine whether or not they may be using a script. Video chatting can give you the opportunity to ask hard questions, which can make a scammer slip up due to the script failing to have a proper response.

Scammers know this, which means in almost all cases, they will avoid it at all cost. Simply asking for a video chat and being denied multiple times is a dead give away that you are chatting with a scammer. Anonymity and security is something all online dating scammers love to have, and this is something they cannot get on most online dating websites.

Usually within a day or so, they will request that you both move over to email or another platform, such as Google Hangouts , to continue chatting. Beware, though — this only gives the scammer a much less of a chance of being banned on the dating website and gives him a bit more privacy. If someone asks you to move onto another platform to continue the conversation where it left off, this should immediately raise a red flag.

However, if asked to move to Snapchat or Instagram, this may not necessarily be a scam; but this is where proper judgment should be used. We find that it is extremely common for online dating scammers to quickly fall in love with their victims. These individuals try their best to fast forward things as quickly as possible so that they can take money from you sooner, rather than later. Sadly enough, victims do not usually notice this, as most victims of romance scams are already vulnerable, although definitely not all.

If you are told by someone on an online dating website or even social media that this person loves you and it has only been a week, this should undoubtedly be cause for suspicion. This is by far the most known scam and is a very popular method used by those looking for new victims.

This will initially begin with an individual being contacted by the scammer, who will then explain how he is deployed overseas, for example. This is used because Americans tend to trust their Military — for good reason. However, when you are contacted with someone claiming to be in the Military right off the bat, this should raise a red flag for most, although like with others, some good judgement is required.

After all, there are millions of service members. Almost all online dating scams involve money in one way or another. Sometimes they may ask very quickly within a week, for example. However, sometimes they may wait for months to ask for money in order to gain your trust; especially if they plan on asking for a more substantial amount of money. The most common scammers will typically ask for smaller amounts at first, but will suddenly begin asking for much bigger amounts.

These online scammers have numerous amounts of scams that they use and sometimes they can be extremely creative when making them. A large weak point that is very typical of online dating scammers is their social media. More often than not, they forget to both build structure such as lack of friends, page likes, posts and photos.

Sometimes, they even have a personal social media account that has their real name and photo. Most online dating scammers like to use stolen photos taken from other social media accounts; and may even use a stock photo.

Typically, if more than one name is connected to that photo, then it is stolen. Anonymity is something almost all online dating scammers want, which means in almost every circumstance, they avoid video chats at all cost.

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The whirlwind online romance between FK and Garcia was all conducted on a Yahoo email address with no phone calls. Garcia told FK he wasn't allowed to use a phone in Syria, according to federal authorities. Demands for money started after he told her he'd found a bag of diamonds in Syria and needed her help to smuggle it out of the war-torn nation. 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.

One said he was a Red Cross diplomat who could get the diamonds shipped to FK, court documents show. Shortly after, another man who claimed to work for a shipping company asked FK for money to ensure the package was not inspected at customs, the complaint alleges. Requests for additional money kept coming, with the fraudsters citing different reasons each time on why the package was stuck at customs.

During that time, the fraudster s emailed her as many as 10 to 15 times each day, and Garcia was asking her to make the payments, so she kept paying to accounts in Turkey, the UK and the US," the federal criminal complaint says. The loss of money has left FK angry and depressed, authorities said.

The scams were not just limited to romance, Hanna said. They included business schemes where fraudsters hack escrow company email systems, impersonate employees and direct payments that funnel money back to themselves. At least three other defendants were already in custody. The remaining suspects live in other countries, mainly in Nigeria, and investigators said they'll work with the respective governments to extradite them. How the scam worked. Once co-conspirators based in Nigeria, the United States and other countries persuaded victims to send money under false pretenses, the two Nigerian men who lived in Southern California coordinated the receipt of funds, the indictment says.

The two men provided bank and money-service accounts that received funds obtained from victims and also ran the extensive money-laundering network, the complaint alleges. The two men were arrested Thursday. All defendants will face charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and aggravated identity theft.

Some also will face fraud and money laundering charges. Be very cautious when someone asks for your phone number or email address. This makes it even easier for them to access your personal information. If an online love interest makes plans to visit but always seems to change their plans at the last second because of a traumatic event, family drama or a business loss, you should be very suspicious.

Often, their cancellation will be accompanied by a request for a short-term loan. If you buy me a ticket, I will pay you back! I just want to be together. Once you know how to tell if someone is scamming you online, you should have better success avoiding online dating scams, and you will maintain better overall online safety.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one has fallen victim to an online dating scam, you should report your experience to whichever online dating or social media site you were on. You should also file a complaint with the FTC. When you know how to report a dating scammer, it can be empowering. Many times, victims who report a scam feel a sense of relief after notifying authorities. Not only can it help with their personal circumstance, it can also prevent people from falling victim to the romance scammer in the future.

Once you report a suspected scam, your financial institution will work with you on the next steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones. Subscribe to our monthly newsletter to stay updated on the latest online scams and ways to avoid them. Cindy Schubert is the Senior Vice President of Operations at Security National Bank, overseeing informational technology and other bank support services. She has nearly three decades of financial operations experience, and has served at SNB since If your heart is in the right place, your money should end up there, too!

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