The Scam

the origin of the scam

It is one of the oldest scams in the world. Before the digital era, the romantic scammers searched for their victims in the personal advertisements (ads) in the back of magazines and newspapers. These sections still exist, particularly in local newspapers, but are slowly going out of fashion. In the digital age, with the advanced communication system that the world of the internet offers, the method or process of selection and grooming has changed and, arguably, been made easier. Communication has evolved so much that today we can, with a click, connect within seconds to every part of the world. This result has positively encouraged every professional sector, but at the same time has also provided the opportunity for many criminals to exploit the web to their advantage so not so much modernizing the scam itself but more the means by which it is perpetrated. The scammer creates a fake profile on a website or chat room then carefully selects the victim, seeking someone who is either an obvious lonely heart, or a person who lives isolated from others, or has left an unsatisfactory marriage, widowed, divorced, or has never married. The age of this target group is around 40-55 years old, including both women and men, and once found, the con man enacts the deception of pretending to be in love. To date it is difficult to quantify the full extent of this scam because the victims are often too ashamed to speak out, although we do know that, because of the use of the internet, the number of victims of this scam have risen exponentially.

how scammers operate

Scammers operate online with fake profiles on social networks like Facebook, dating sites, sites for language exchange, or chat rooms; rumor has it that the fraudsters are also beginning to operate on Linkedin. Through social networks scammers select the profiles of ordinary people, usually good-looking, copying them and downloading their personal photos in order to use them to create a new profile from the stolen identities of others, man or woman, most of the time claiming to be Americans. The sole purpose of the fraudster is to extort money from the victim of the fake romance, without a care for the broken dreams and feelings of the victim. It can be said that the scammers are good at what they do, using psychological tricks, poetic words and sending gifts in order to charm, flatter and draw the vulnerable person into the trap. Usually they make a thousand excuses to avoid showing up on a webcam. The crook in most cases comes across as a good person who wants to gain the undivided attention of the victim, openly declaring that they are soul mates, and that the victim will no longer be alone, going so far as to declare eternal and unconditional love, promising a family life full of joy, passion and happiness, and all this from the very first meetings. Almost immediately they begin calling the victim husband or wife, and during meetings use terms like “Baby”, “My Honey”, “Sweetness” etc. Also, the scammers tactfully ask a lot of personal questions particularly in regard to what the victim wants in life and then with skillful words transform the dreams of the victim into reality, clearly a reality created with words.

team play

The Scammers work in teams and in shifts. They have a script to follow, just like a telemarketing job. This is why, when listening to the stories of the victims, the words used by the scammers to trick them are always very similar. The team leaders teach scammers what to say and when to say it, they usually work in groups of six people. This is why they are always on the computer, and sometimes, you have the sensation that you are talking with a different person. There may be times when you are sure that your partner has forgotten what you talked about earlier, or fails to respond to a topic mentioned the day before. Sometimes the scammer will take time to answer because they are talking to other victims at the same time and on these occasions what happens very often is that they accidentally send answers to you that are meant for others. The expert scammer does not always follow the established patterns because they have cleverly developed their techniques so that they can customize them to the subject with whom they are in contact. The words and phrases are constructed and manipulated with the sole purpose of making the victim fall blindly in love and then fall into the trap, which is when, against all common sense, they begin to completely trust the scammer. Once the scammer has established this trusting relationship the real scam begins.

Strategy

Approach 1

Spammers do not shrink from using God in this scam, asserting that it is God or fate that has created the meeting, neither do they refrain from using words and phrases that accurately describe sexual acts with their virtual partners and the sensations from it, all with the purpose of forming, in one way or another, a strongly intimate bond with the victims.

Approach 2

Some scammers have infinite patience, grooming the victim for more than a year to gain their trust before sending a request for money. They may ask for money for various reasons and often these are very credible, for example; They can ask for money because they have to undergo a medical examination, or to enable them to obtain a visa and pay for the travel costs to visit the person targeted, or say they are prisoners in the hotel in which they reside because they have had a problem with their credit cards and cannot leave until they pay the bill, or are hospitalized and cannot pay for their hospital care. Some pretend to be soldiers on active duty who need money to return home (something that no soldier on active duty in a western army would need), or maybe they say that they need money to phone or have a box full of money that is at customs and that a tax must be paid to the authorities to release it … in short so many stories … and all are credible … all clearly come with the full promise that the victim will be paid back!! Upon receipt of the sum of money from the victim the scammer often disappears and only at this juncture does the victim realize that they have been duped. However, if they think they can get away with it, depending on how deeply they think the victim has fallen, they may make excuses as to why the first amount was not enough and make further requests. This is why you must tell the authorities as soon as you become aware that the situation is a scam – be strong, at least seek advice from your friends, don’t be ashamed, if they are true friends they will help you.

Situation

The scammer who stays in contact after the first money has been sent will often, when discovered and confronted by the victim, admit to using the money for another credible reason and still swear to be in love with the duped person. Many victims want to believe this. From that moment, despite discovering the stark truth, the victim begins to display even stronger feelings for the scammer which they think can in some way will be reciprocated. Not wanting to admit defeat or failure and thinking that, almost like having made a failed investment, it might come good with a bit more effort or money. The scammer then continues to work to consolidate the love and trust of the victim. The next move is a concrete request inviting the person to go to the scammer’s country of origin. It is implied that this visit is intended to further strengthen their relationship but, in most cases, the victim is forced to remain in that foreign country, often in Africa, against their will. There have also been stories reported of women who have traveled to Nigeria to meet the man of their dreams that have ended up in kidnapping and rape. There are very few victims who speak of what really happened and so, for the moment, it is not possible to verify the accuracy of this information.

 

the added danger

An added danger that should be highlighted is that the scammer in Approach 1 of the scam may also have a “sexual history” with the victim. It may be the case that, in order to develop it into a more intimate relationship, the scammer has asked the victim to send pictures while masturbating or pictures where the victim is almost naked. If the scammer is not happy with how much money he has managed to extort from the victim and is in possession of this material, he begins a real blackmail of the victim. The scammer threatens to publish the pictures online and make them visible to relatives, friends and business associates.

devastating results

Those who put their trust in a scammer often feel devastated not just for the amount of money they have lost but because their false hopes have been destroyed. The people who fall for this scam are often sensitive people longing for affection, in need of love and they fall head over heels for the scammer. They will often need much time to recover before they can face meeting any potential future partners.

 

After the victim becomes aware of having been cheated there, generally, follows a period of very deep depression during which time there is neither the will nor the courage to seek help, because the victim is unfortunately overwhelmed by a sense of shame and fear for being so weak or naive. This is the most delicate stage because their continuing deafening silence, which is humanly understandable, permits the continuing perpetration of this fraud and the exploitation of other innocent victims.

The best weapon against this crime is education. The greater the number of people who are educated and informed about this type of scam, the harder it is for scammers to find other potential victims.

Information and education is the only way to prevent this online scam.

We appeal to people personally involved: Tell us your stories. We will use this information, anonymously if you wish, to improve our understanding of the scammers and their techniques and make others aware of the dangers. You will help to stop this fraud by helping us inform others so that they know how to avoid it. Improved awareness will make it more difficult for the scammers to find victims, definitely making the lives of these criminals harder.

No victim of this scam should be ashamed that they fell into this trap. Scammers work on the emotional needs of each individual, good people, with real feelings, who have no reason to hide.

we  must open our eyes

how to defend

The scammers are good at what they do. In most cases the scammers present themselves as nice, likeable people who are very attentive to the needs of the victim and, from very early on, appear to care for that person. Often they will suggest that the meeting was destined to happen, that they are the victim’s soulmate and that they will be together forever. They declare eternal and unconditional love for the victim and promise a family life full of joy, passion and happiness… all of this after only a few encounters.

They tactfully ask many personal questions to gain an understanding of what the victim wants in life and then skillfully use words to transform the victim’s dreams into reality, a reality clearly made of words. The constructed phrases and words used are so well contrived as to be able to charm the victim, and make them fall into the trap.

listen  to your doubts

The story you are experiencing is it too good to be true? Are there are some things that make no sense? Have you noticed anything confusing or odd, could the person you are chatting with also be speaking simultaneously with another person? Have some of your questions received strange answers, are you being asked the same thing again, as if your answer has been forgotten already? Has this dream “match” professed love in what seems a very short time? Have you been asked not to talk to anyone about your love story? Has your new friend made excuses to avoid meeting you face to face using Skype or similar? Have you been asked for intimate pictures or to perform intimate acts? Have you been asked to send money?

You need to know that…

The sole intent of the scammers is to extort money from the victim, no matter who it is, man or woman, the goal is money. This will definitely allow them to improve their lifestyle but what is most troubling is that many of them have links to, or are actively supporting, terrorist organizations.

  • Scammers are linked to terrorism.
  • Scammers only want your money and will promise anything to get it.
  • Scammers have no conscience.
  • They ask you not to discuss your relationship with anyone else but them.

What we do know

Reliable, official data on the extent of this international scam, the number of approaches and victims, is not available. The number of Italian victims is unknown. Often, the victim prefers not to talk about the fact that they have been scammed because they feel ashamed, for being fooled or so naive or for providing intimate photos or videos of themselves. They therefore do not report the crime and, although this behavior is understandable, this prevents the collation of proper information. This in turn, sadly, facilitates the perpetration of fraud.

Know to counter it

If you think it is a scam do not answer and immediately stop any contact. If you continue communicating with them the scammers will use the personal touch, words and psychological techniques, to play on your emotions and to fool you into believing that they are interested in you, ultimately achieve what they want – to TAKE your money from you.