Military Romance Scams

CID ADVISES VIGILANCE AGAINST INTERNET ‘ROMANCE SCAMS’
By U.S. Army CID Public Affairs Office January 18, 2017

WASHINGTON — In today’s digital age, when most individuals communicate regularly with family and friends over social media platforms, one should always be awarethat online predators and scammers are lurking on those same platforms, actively stalking their next unsuspecting victims.

Now that the holidays are over and Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, Special Agents with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, also known as CID, are anticipating a different type of holiday frenzy — an increase in “romance scam” reports.

The scam involves an online scammer tricking a victim into believing he or she is “in a relationship” with an American Soldier and then hustling the victim out of his or her money.

“These perpetrators are definitely not American Soldiers, but they are quite familiar with American culture,” said Chris Grey, Army CID spokesperson. “The criminals, often from other countries, most notably from West African countries, are pretending to be U.S. Soldiers routinely serving in a combat zone or other overseas location.

According to Grey, perpetrators take on the online persona of a U.S. Soldier, marry the persona with photographs of a Soldier off the Internet, and then begin prowling the web for victims. The Soldier’s rank and other details are often included in an effort to lend credence to the scammer’s story.

The Army reports that several senior officers and enlisted Soldiers throughout the Army have also had their identities stolen and used in these scams.

To date, Army CID has received no reports indicating a Soldier has been criminally involved or suffered financial loss as a result of these attacks. But victims of these scams have reported losing thousands of dollars.

One victim went so far as to refinance her house to help out her new online beau. In the end, she lost more than $70,000.

According to romancescam.org, the scammers set up fake social media accounts and dating site profiles with pictures suggesting that they are from the U.S. The scammers portray themselves as caring and loving individuals looking for a soul mate.

Once the victim is on the hook, the scammer attempts to persuade the victim to provide financial support to deal with a crisis or on some other pretext.

Scammers will communicate carefully worded romantic requests for money to purchase computers, international telephones, or pay transportation fees — always to be used by the fictitious “deployed Soldier” so the relationship can continue.

They ask the victim to send money, often thousands of dollars at a time, to a third party address.

Grey said he gets calls every week from victims of these kinds of scams.

“It is very troubling to hear these stories over and over again of people who have sent thousands of dollars to someone they have never met,” Grey said. “We cannot stress enough that people need to stop sending money to persons they meet on the Internet and claim to be in the U.S. military.”

Along with the romance-type scams, CID has also received complaints from citizens worldwide that they have been the victims of other types of scams in which a cyber-crook impersonates a U.S. service member.

One version usually involves the sale of a vehicle; where the service member claims to be moving overseas and has to quickly sell their vehicle because they are being sent to another duty station.

After sending bogus information regarding the vehicle, the seller requests the buyer do a wire transfer to a third party to complete the purchase. In reality, the entire exchange is a ruse for the crook to get the wire transfer and leave the buyer high and dry, with no vehicle.

“Another critical issue is we don’t want victims walking away and thinking that a U.S. Soldier has ripped them off when in fact that Soldier is honorably serving his or her country and often not even aware that his pictures or identity have been stolen,” Grey said.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR:
— DON’T EVER SEND MONEY! Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees or marriage processing and medical fees.

— If you do start an Internet-based relationship with someone, check them out, research what they are telling you with someone who would know, such as a current or former service member.

— Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Service members serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.

— Military members have an email address that end in “.mil.” If the person you are speaking with cannot sent you at least one email from a “.mil” (.mil will be the very LAST part of the address and nothing after), then there is a high probability they are not in the military.

— Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality — check the facts.

— Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often times the company exists, but is not part of the scam.

— Be aware of common spelling, grammatical or language errors in the emails.

— Be cognizant of foreign and regional accents that do not match the person’s story.

The U.S. has established numerous task force organizations to deal with this and other growing issues; unfortunately, the people committing these scams are using untraceable email addresses on Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc., routing accounts through numerous locations around the world, and using pay-per-hour Internet cyber cafes, which often times maintain no accountability of use. The ability of law enforcement to identify these perpetrators is limited, so individuals must stay on the alert and be personally responsible to protect themselves.

Officials said that if you suspect that you are a victim, you should contact the authorities as soon as possible and stop all correspondence with that person immediately. They added that the scams are a grave misrepresentation of the U.S. Army and the tremendous amount of support programs and mechanisms that exist for Soldiers today, especially those serving overseas.

WHERE TO GO FOR HELP:
— Report the theft to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (FBI-NW3C Partnership).
Online: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
— Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the United States in their investigations.
.
Online: http://www.ftc.gov/idtheft
By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338) or TTY, 1-866-653-4261
By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580
.
— Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission on Nigerian Scams.
Email: spam@uce.gov

For more information on CID, visit http://www.cid.army.mil.

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Help & Support When You Need It

The Romance Scams blog is here to help and support those who have found themselves or someone close involved in a romance/dating scam. It is but one of the tools we have created to help support you. Here are the various ways you can contact us for assistance.

Our Website:

Our website is located at http://www.romancescams.org. There is a plethora of information here.

Chat:

From our website (link above), you can opt for help via live chat. If a peer counselor is not available, leave a message and one will respond as soon as possible. If you want to discuss your situation live with a peer counselor, ask to set up a time to chat or for a phone call.

Our Yahoo group:

Our group has over 20,000 members. You are not alone. This crime has happened to many people. It happens to college graduates as well as those who may have quit high school or have a GED. It happens to rich people as well as the middle class and poor.

This group is open so that you may come in and read messages, however, you have to join in order to send messages. Read the introductory information before you join, especially the paragraph about changing and/or creating a new identity to use when you join. Here is the link to the group:

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/romancescams/info

We are here to help. Don’t feel embarrassed or ashamed. Generally people who have not been scammed believe this cannot happen to them. Believe me, it can happen to anyone who does not know how this type of scam works. We will help you learn these skills without judgment and/or criticism.

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Western Australia Woman Scammed and Murdered ….

From the Australian News:

A WEST Australian woman who went to South Africa to find love has been found dead in her rented villa in a suspected romance scam.

The body of Jette Jacobs, 67, of Wagin, was found in her rented Johannesburg villa by police on February 9.

Ms Jacobs had travelled from Wagin, about 200km south-east of Perth, on November 22 last year to visit a Nigerian man she was having a relationship with on the internet.

Her death is being investigated by local police.

According to WA Police, it is the first such WA death as a consequence of an online scam.

Ms Jacobs, a widow with six grandchildren, lost her husband in 2002 and her subsequent partner in 2009.

She then met a man purporting to be “Jesse Orowo Omokoh” from Nigeria on a dating website and they had regular contact over a four year period.

Ms Jacobs had sent at least $80,000 to Nigeria during this time and met the man known as Jesse during a visit to Johannesburg in 2010 without incident.

During her last visit, Ms Jacobs was to meet Jesse for a second time but he said he could not get a visa to join her immediately.

A letter from Project Sunbird was sent to Ms Jacobs warning that she may be a victim of fraud, but it arrived shortly after she had left Australia.

Project Sunbird is a joint operation between WA Police and Consumer Protection that tracks large amounts of money being sent from WA to West African countries and attempts to warn the senders that they could be victims of relationship fraud.

WA Police and Ms Jacobs’ son believe she may have died in suspicious circumstances, with her money, credit cards, jewellery, laptop computer and other personal items missing from the villa.

Detective Senior Constable Robert Martin from the Major Fraud Squad today said such scams had now revealed  “tragic consequences”.

“We were hoping with our operation we would be able to prevent this from occurring,” he said.

“Unfortunately with Ms Jacobs, she did receive a letter from our Operation Sunbird team, informing her of the dangers, however she had departed for South Africa prior to receiving the letter. Her friend had the letter sitting in the room when I went to visit, it was sitting on the table.”

Const Martin said detectives had found an extensive paper trail showing the relationship stemmed back four years, with a number of emails between the two, including one where Ms Jacobs tells Jesse she is raising money for him – the money was meant to go to sick children.

“I am try as you know to raise the money and by the way you are the only one who know this ok,” she wrote.

“I will never tell anybody what I am doing here foe (sic) you ok. That is betwin (sic) you and me ok.”

“Thank you my sweet woman. Yes I know,” Jesse replied.

Const Martin said the task force was now creating a database of scammers to see if Jesse had more WA victims.

Ms Jacobs’ son, who did not want to be named, said her friends and family had tried to talk her out of going to South Africa, but she could not be swayed.

“Mum went over for a couple of months and did not return,” he said.

“So as you can see, one consequence of the internet scammers has taken her life.”

He urged others who find love on the internet to be cautious.

“Don’t go, because at the end of the day, they are running a business or a scam or what they want to believe it is, to lure people to go to Africa, and no saying it’s a one way ticket, but there’s a possibility it’s a one way ticket and no return,” he said.

“If you do meet someone who is truly in love with you, money doesn’t buy it.”

To view the original article: http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/wa-woman-murdered-in-south-africa/story-e6frg6n6-1226589763135

 

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Disturbing News About Victims of Romance Scams

From Smashy Events comes the following article published June 16, 2011, ” Belgian police probe murders of ten internet daters who died after emptying bank accounts and flying to Africa to marry.”  The article begins “Ten men who emptied their bank accounts and flew to Africa hoping to marry women they had met on the internet have died suddenly”

Even though these are not Americans and the “women” each man went to meet lived in Cameroon instead of Ghana or Nigeria, this story should bring home the dangers of continued contact with any scammer.

From Canada comes the following article which I am reproducing in full here since the newspaper which published the article no longer has it available for reading:

Saskatchewan woman dies in Nigeria, family anxiously waits for body to be returned home

 By Sean Trembath, The StarPhoenix March 30, 2011
 The family of a Saskatchewan woman who died in Nigeria earlier this month is stuck in limbo waiting for her body to come back to Canada.

“It’s just a waiting game. All we can do is sit and wait,” said Marcia Seeseequasis, an adopted sister of Debra Pine.

Pine lived on the Beardy’s First Nation, located 85 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon. On Feb. 9, she travelled to Nigeria to marry a man who Seeseequasis knows as Martin. A little over one month later, Pine died.

Pine had met Martin several years ago over the Internet and got married on Feb. 14. A few weeks later, Pine fell ill. She complained of a headache and vomiting, but didn’t want to see a doctor as she didn’t think the illness was serious, said Seeseequasis.

“She felt that it was just a flu,” she said.

On March 23, Sheryl Horse, Pine’s oldest daughter, was the last family member to speak to her mother. Pine complained of being very tired.

Pine died in hospital the next day, said Seeseequasis, who spoke to Martin that day.

“All Martin said was she’s dead,” said Seeseequasis, who has been the family’s main representative in attempts to get more information about her sister’s death and arrange for Pine’s body to be returned.

“It’s very difficult to communicate with a different country,” she said.

Seeseequasis tried calling the local police station in Nigeria and the hospital where Pine died, but neither would answer the phone.

“We haven’t been able to speak to a doctor. We haven’t been able to speak to anyone else,” she said.

An autopsy was performed to determine the cause of death, but the results are still pending, said Seeseequasis. Both she and Horse said the family does not suspect foul play.

“My sister trusted (Martin),” said Seeseequasis, adding that she trusted her sister’s judgment.

This was Pine’s second trip to Nigeria. In 2009, she went to meet Martin and his family for the first time.

“She said that he treated her well. She said she felt like a queen. I was happy for her that she found someone,” said Seeseequasis.

Since Pine was married before her death, Martin is the next of kin and any attempts to move the body have to go through him. According to Seeseequasis, he has been quite cooperative.

“He’s making all the arrangements over there. Thus far everything has gone well,” she said. Even so, they have yet to receive any confirmation that Pine’s body will be returned. Seeseequasis said that Martin wants to accompany the body to Canada, and this may be holding up the process.

“On behalf of the family, we’ve written a letter inviting him to the funeral,” she said. They hope it will help him get whatever visa is needed to allow him into the country.

Meanwhile, the community of Beardy’s First Nation have rallied behind Pine’s family.

“We’ve been getting so much support. People have been bringing food and money,” said Horse, who lives next door to Pine’s house.

Pine left nine children ranging in age from 11 to 33. The five who are still of dependent age are now living with Pine’s first husband, who also lives on the reserve.

Horse said that Pine was very well liked in the community.

“I never heard anything bad about her, ever. She always had a smile for everybody,” she said.

The most important thing now is getting Pine’s body back, said Horse.

“It’s really difficult,” she said.

“We want to have that chance to say goodbye to her. It doesn’t feel like we can.”

© Copyright (c) The StarPhoenix
 Again, not an American, but the following story hits closer to home. Published August 2, 2011 by The Carthage Press in Joplin, Missouri, I hope the following will remind you of the dangers of remaining in contact with a scammer once you are aware that you are involved with a criminal: Nigerian scam ensnares Carthage woman.
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From the Wall Street Journal — Online, Is Dream Date A Scam? — May 4, 2011

http://s.wsj.net/media/swf/main.swf

Education and learning are the keys to safety on the internet. If you believe you are involved with a scammer and need help or assistance, visit us at RomanceScams.

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The Dangerous Side of Online Romance Scams

Today, the IC3 published the following warning:

Intelligence Note

Prepared by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

April 29, 2011

The Dangerous Side of Online Romance Scams

The IC3 is warning the public to be wary of romance scams in which scammers target individuals who search for companionship or romance online. Someone you know may be “dating” someone online who may appear to be decent and honest. However, be forewarned: the online contact could be a criminal sitting in a cyber café with a well-rehearsed script that scammers have used repeatedly and successfully. Scammers search chat rooms, dating sites, and social networking sites looking for victims. The principal group of victims is over 40 years old and divorced, widowed, elderly, or disabled, but all demographics are at risk.

Scammers use poetry, flowers, and other gifts to reel in victims, the entire time declaring their “undying love.” These criminals also use stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, deaths in the family, injuries to themselves, or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved in their schemes. Scammers also ask victims to send money to help overcome a financial situation they claim to be experiencing. These are all lies intended to take money from unsuspecting victims.

In another scheme, scammers ask victims to receive funds in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, or wire transfer, claiming they are out of the country and unable to cash the instruments or receive the funds directly. The scammers ask victims to redirect the funds to them or to an associate to whom they purportedly owe money. In a similar scheme, scammers ask victims to reship packages instead of redirecting funds. In these examples, victims risk losing money and may incur other expenses, such as bank fees and penalties, and in some instances face prosecution.

Victims who have agreed to meet in person with an online love interest have been reported missing, or injured, or in one instance, deceased. IC3 complainants most often report the countries of Nigeria, Ghana, England, and Canada as the location of the scammers. If you are planning to meet someone in person that you have met online, the IC3 recommends using caution, especially if you plan to travel to a foreign country, and, at the very least:

  • Do not travel alone.
  • Read all travel advisories associated with the countries you will visit. Travel advisories are available at http://travel.state.gov/.
  • Contact the United States Embassy in the country you plan to visit.

Even though it seems to be contrary to the thought of starting a new romance, do not be afraid to check a new acquaintance’s story online. Remember, like most fraudulent schemes, scammers use whatever personal information you provide to quickly paint themselves as your perfect match. If your new friend’s story is repeated through numerous complaints and articles on the Internet, it is time to apply common sense over your feelings. To obtain more information on romance scams and other types of online schemes, visit www.LooksTooGoodToBeTrue.com. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of this type of scam should promptly report it to the IC3’s website at www.IC3.gov.

◊◊◊

The link for this article is here: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2011/110429.aspx.

Of particular interest and concern is the bolded language. If you are involved and at the point of traveling to meet face to face for the first time, please take heed and follow the IC3’s suggestions to stay safe. If you know someone who is, please pass this article and/or its link on to them.

Remember, help is always available free through http://www.romancescams.org and/or our group at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams/. We will help you determine if the “man or woman of your dreams” is real or a scammer and then walk you through protecting you and your computer if it is found that this person is a scammer.

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2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,900 times in 2010. That’s about 9 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 2 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 5 posts.

The busiest day of the year was March 26th with 74 views. The most popular post that day was About Romance Scams.

 

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were romancescams.org, bigextracash.com, mail.yahoo.com, search.aol.com, and facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for ghana romance scams, romance scams ghana, romance scam stories, romance scams, and ghana romance scam.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

About Romance Scams January 2008
2 comments

2

Anatomy of A Romance Scam — April 21, 2008 April 2008
13 comments

3

Pictures of Scammers RS Video January 2008
3 comments

4

The Untold Story January 2008
1 comment

5

Welcome January 2008
5 comments

Thank you for supporting us throughout this past year and we hope you will continue to visit and send others who need to know they are victims of a romance scam. Have fun online but beware and be aware! Welcome to 2011.

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