Romance Scam Leads to Suicide

So often victims of this type of scam do not come forward and family members left behind are too overwhelmed and humiliated to report that a loved one’s death was the result of a scam. Bravo to the son in this ABC-TV report for his courage in stepping forward and telling his late father’s story: Romance scam ends in suicide.

Don’t let this happen to you or someone you know. There is free help and support at Romance Scams Web Site and Romance Scams Yahoo Group. At our Yahoo group, you can read files and messages without joining but do need to join to post. Please make sure you read the front page and the welcome/member rules email you receive.

We are here to help you and support you through this. You are not alone.

DianeG
DianeG@romancescams.org

Posted in romance scams, scams | Tagged | 1 Comment

Nigerian Government Believes U.S. Is Treating Them Unfairly

The Vanguard published the below quoted article today. Already there are 25 responses to it by Nigerians who are mostly condemning our President’s actions in response to the Christmas Eve incident in a commercial jet over Detroit. We can see from those responses that what RS (“Romance Scams”) has been imparting to its members and others over the past five plus years regarding not only romance and dating scams but also other 419 scams is true. Our cultures are so very different as are our mindsets.

As Westerners, those of us who are Americans would rather not believe the truth that these scammers are organized, run by criminals, and financed by terrorist funds. We would rather try to equate scammer behavior filtered by our own understandings. This is almost as dangerous to our national health and safety as the scammers’ behaviors in using our own feelings against us.

We want to believe that what happened September 11, 2001 in New York City cannot happen again. We want to believe it is an anomaly. I know I do. This past Christmas Eve told all of us it is possible. The federal government is finally listening and our President has taken a stand that I truly admire. I hope he holds fast to this stand and doesn’t allow pressure from those in denial to convince him otherwise.

What can you do? Educate yourself and others. Visit our website! Read, read, read. Then use some of the letters we have there to contact your legislative representatives and others in power to have your voice heard NOW while our government is listening! It is hard to admit that one has been taken; it is embarrassing, humiliating, and holds some shame. Most victims are smart, well educated, savvy individuals and romance scams, in particular, have an attached connotation that they only happen to lonely, ugly, fat and/or old people. As long as we want to believe that, nothing will stop another 9/11 or worse happening one day soon.

Here is the article:

Terror: FG flays U.S action

Vanguard News Online, Jan 7, 2010

By Daniel Idonor & Henry Umoru
ABUJA—FEDERAL Government yesterday expressed “disappointment and concern over the undeserved placement of Nigeria” by the United States as one of the countries under the watch list of terrorism.

A statement read by Minister of Information and communication, Prof Dora Akunyili at the end of the Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice president Goodluck Jonathan at the State House, yesterday, said: “Nigeria expresses its disappointment and concern over the undeserved placement of Nigeria on the country-of-interest list and views this action as having the potential of undermining long standing and established US-Nigeria bilateral ties and the goodwill the US enjoys in Nigeria.

“It is noteworthy that Mr. Farouk Mutallab, though Nigerian born, has been educated and bred outside Nigeria and only transited through Nigeria for less than 30 minutes on the fateful day where he underwent regular airport security.”

Akunyili said that Nigeria has signed and ratified nine of the 16 UN and AU instruments on counter-terrorism dealing with issues ranging from money laundering, drug trafficking, crime, to nuclear terrorism, adding that this was in addition to its various roles in peacekeeping which have earned it international recognition and commendations of the UN.

She said: “Nigeria has, since December 25, expressed its deep sorrow and dismay over the incident which it condemned in all its ramifications. Farouk Mutallab, though Nigerian-born, has been educated and bred outside Nigeria and only transited through Nigeria for less than 30 minutes on the fateful day where he underwent regular airport security.

The minister said the federal government has ordered eight body scanners for the nation’s airports adding that they are expected to arrive in the coming two weeks.

Govs to take decision on Monday

Meantime, the 36 governors under the aegis of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum will meet on Monday to deliberate on the United States action of including Nigeria on the watch-list following the alleged aborted terrorist attempt by Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab.

Speaking with newsmen in Abuja at the end of the meeting of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors, chairman of the Governors’ Forum and governor of Kwara State, Dr. Bukola Saraki who noted that the governors discussed a lot of issues ranging from politics to health of President Umaru Yar’Adua, said: “We discussed a number of issues from politics to economy and security, and one of the things you will also want to know is about the health of Mr. President. We are very happy to say that he is improving very well.

Just a few hours ago, Mr. President got in touch with both the vice president, the Senate president, the speaker and we also had time to discuss some of the comments by some Nigerians.”

On when the President will be returning home, Saraki said: “the health of the President is different from the time that he will be coming back and it is anticipatory that we are happy to see a great improvement on his health.

This is because prior to now, a lot of anti-democratic individuals have been spreading rumours that the President cannot talk or converse and that he is in comma.

You can confirm what we are saying and I think it is good that the President said his health is improving and that is what we have said.

So that is what I can speak on and that is what I can say on the two issues.”
On the governors’ decision on the case of Mutallab and sanction by the government of the United States of America, Saraki said, “that is what I have told you.

It’s a serious issue and this is just PDP governors’ meeting. It is an issue that requires entire governors to meet and deliberate on. It’s a national issue and as such we are recommending that at the next national meeting, it should be the main item on the agenda. We have brought the next meeting forward to Monday to address this matter.”

Present at the meeting were governors of Adamawa, Katsina, Kwara, Oyo; Akwa Ibom; Ebonyi; Bauchi, Bayelsa, Gombe, Niger, Osun, Imo, Zamfara and Plateau. Others were governors of Benue, Kaduna, Kebbi, Enugu states.

You can read the comments attached, as well as the published article here. Will you take constructive action or will you continue to sit and wait for someone else to take a stand?

DianeG, Peer Counselor

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“Looking for love? Keep an eye on your wallet”

Link to Web Article: http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/04/21/romance.fraud/index.html

By Sean O’Key, CNN

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) — Julia Abrantes spent hours cleaning her house and primping in front of a mirror before heading to John F. Kennedy airport in New York. She was there to pick up the love of her life, whom she had met on the Internet. Six hours later, she was still waiting. Nobody arrived.

Abrantes was the victim of romance fraud: a scam designed to prey on her emotions to get her money.

“I was devastated,” she said. “He wound up winning my heart.”

Abrantes isn’t alone. Dating sites like Match.com, which says it has a membership of more than 15 million, are growing in popularity. But with the increased interest in Internet dating comes more people willing to prey on those looking for love online.

Barb Sluppick runs RomanceScams.org, a Web site dedicated to helping victims of romance fraud, like herself. She said the site has had more than 30,000 members since its start in June 2005.

The number of broken hearts aside, romance fraud costs victims millions of dollars each year. Of her 30,000 members, Sluppick said, 883 people have reported their financial losses. They add up to $8,244,800.05, she said.

There were 206,884 complaints regarding Internet fraud last year, costing victims more than $239 million, according to the FBI Internet Crime Report.

Romance fraud is a process, often taking place over several months, Sluppick said.

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Scammers “establish a strong bond with their victim through constant communication,” she said. “They get the person to where they actually believe they have a relationship with the scammer. This can be a long process, sometimes up to six or eight months.”

Patrish Giocolo is a moderator for RomanceScams.org. She’s also a victim of romance fraud.

“Most people have this picture of this lonely old woman surfing the Internet, but that’s not the case,” Giocolo said. “These con artists are intelligent, kind, and people are losing their hearts.”

Among the members of RomanceScams.org, the financial loss doesn’t resonate as strongly as the emotional toll, Giocolo said.

Through the Yahoo Personals dating site, Giocolo met a man from California who had traveled to Ghana to build roads. At least, that’s what he told her.

“He said he won a contract in Ghana, but when he got back, he’d like to meet me,” Giocolo said.

After the first month, they started chatting on the phone. Giocolo said she had her suspicions, but after some light research, everything seemed legitimate. “I did an Internet search, and sure enough, they were accepting bids in Ghana for building roads.”

After a few months, Giocolo’s Internet friend started to make requests. “He said someone had stolen his workboots, so I sent him a new pair.” Then, it was $500 to help pay his men.

When the man asked for another $500, Giocolo hesitated. She was strapped for cash herself and sent only $150.

Then, after the man claimed that he had been in a car accident and asked for more money, Giocolo got a sinking feeling.

“I literally stumbled on this Web site on romance scams, and boom, there was his picture. Your heart sinks. There was no contract job, no car accident — it was all lies,” she said.

The Web site has a database of photos reported to be used by scammers.

The bottom line, Sluppick said, is to be cautious and find out as much as you can about the person you’re talking to.

Match.com, aware of the risks of dating online, provides tips for users to help avoid that one “bad apple.”

“We do … encourage members to do their own research on potential love matches, including asking questions, utilizing Internet search engines, and most importantly, use common sense,” the site says.

Craig Butterworth, a communications specialist with the National White Collar Crime Center, also offers advice for avoiding romance fraud. Mainly, don’t give out any information that identifies you specifically. “That would include things like your date of birth, home address or Social Security number. This information can be used to steal your identity,” Butterworth said.

He suggests that people not give out directions to their homes.

Also, as a rule of thumb, Butterworth advises against sending money to people you have never met in person.

RomanceScams.org also lists a few red flags to detect a possible scammer: If their spelling is horrible, they use emoticons heavily and they appear to be available at unusual hours for your time zone, they may be scamming you.

Scammers often work on the Internet from other countries and use photos of others they find online. Often, a simple Google search can help identify whether your online companion is legitimate or whether he or she is simply using someone else’s name and photo.

In the end, Julia Abrantes said, it’s all about educating yourself to the dangers. Though charges were never able to be filed against the individuals who scammed Abrantes and Giocolo, the women admit they’ve learned something.

“I’m an intelligent person. I’m college-educated, I work for a law firm, but I knew nothing about dating scams. You hear about pyramid schemes and buying stuff on eBay, but nobody talks about romance scams,” she said.

CNN’s Carol Cratty contributed to this report.

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Anatomy of A Romance Scam — April 21, 2008

The romance scam is different from other “419” scams in that it preys on a victim’s kindness and openness, not their greed. This type of scam relies on creating a strong emotional bond and tie that, in retrospect, very often bypasses logical thought and common sense. The romance scam begins usually with personal ads placed on internet dating services. A photograph of an attractive person, very often stolen from a modeling website, is used. However, more and more photographs of prior victims (or ordinary people like you and me) are being used. Profiles include descriptions designed to attract the targeted audience. The scammer is often a widower or widow whose spouse died tragically leaving him or her alone with one or more children. The scammer’s parents are both dead and rarely do they have a sibling that resides in their home country. The text of the ad is often poorly written but not so much that an uninformed victim wouldn’t think it was more than an individual who doesn’t have good writing skills or some sort of dyslexia or other learning disability. Since we all have seemed to relax the “rules” we were taught with respect to grammar, spelling, etc., for the acronyms and shorthand of the Internet, most would not necessarily judge an individual profile by the poor grammar and spelling.

 

Scammers post highly scripted fake profiles on multiple dating sites. I know of only three dating sites online who are and strive to stay scammer free. Other than these, there is not another dating site online that does not contain active fake profiles. Scammers target every type of dating site. A profile can be amended to fit any niche in the market. Most scammers are men and will pose as either gender in order to con their victim. The scammer’s fake profile will show a location close to the victim so that you or I believe we are beginning to get to know someone we can eventually meet face to face. The initial concern of the scammer in this type of scam is that the potential victim is willing and ready to open his or her heart.

 

Once contact is made through a dating site, the scammer will usually attempt to move the victim to an instant messenger (“IM”) client rather quickly. The most common one used is Yahoo Messenger (thus, the term “yahoo yahoo” boys). There might be an exchange of one or two emails to the victim’s email address but it is more likely that the scammer will continue writing the victim back and forth on the dating service until he can successfully convince the victim to install IM so they can chat. Once chatting begins, the scammer quickly begins to establish emotional intimacy with the victim. Sex is rarely discussed. Instead, chivalrous talk and endearing names are used. Statements are made about how the relationship must have been pre-ordained and/or how the scammer has finally found that one true love of his or her life after searching fruitlessly for so long. Sincere interest is shown by the questions asked. Often quick declarations of love and/or affection are made as well as the strong desire to be physically present in the victim’s life. Frequent and constant contact is made.

 

Usually after the first or second contact (if not before), the scammer who is some sort of entrepreneur, engineer, or has what most of us consider a high profile occupation which requires travel, will advise the victim that he or she must travel overseas (usually to a country in West Africa – Nigeria, for the most part, but Ghana has become a scam hotspot as well) for business. The scammer will tell the victim that he or she will be away from a few weeks to a few months and so the face to face meeting must wait. At this point, the scammer has, at the very least, ensured the victim’s interest in waiting for his or her return. Once the scammer arrives in Nigeria (for example), he or she will send a phone number so that the parties can stay in touch, continue chatting through IM, declaring committed love to the point of proposing marriage, obtain the victim’s phone number and make calls frequently to the victim to further solidify the emotional connection and attachment, ask for an address and send gifts with romantic notes (all purchased with stolen or fraudulent credit or debit cards). Along with all this attention, the victim receives romantic poetry, letters full of tender and charming rhetoric designed to continue creating the dream of a “perfect” lover and friend. In addition, photos are exchanged, each party sharing the images of themselves and the people most important in his/her life. All of this is created with the unknowing help of the victim and designed according to the answers we give to the questions the scammer asks. To the victim’s mind and heart, he or she has finally met the most thoughtful, supportive, considerate, loving and wonderful man or woman in the world. To each victim’s way of thinking and feeling, it is frequently the end to a very long and difficult search and quest to find love.

 

After the relationship is solidified in the scammer’s mind and he or she is fairly certain that a victim can be controlled through the feelings of love and care that have been established, the money part of the scam occurs. This person that one loves is still “stuck” in a foreign country and can’t wait to get on that plane to finally come home and spend “in real life” time with the true love of their dreams – their future husband or wife. THEN, something terrible, traumatic or catastrophic happens. Some or all of the following stories have been used:

 

  • The scammer or his/her child falls seriously ill or is seriously injured in a car crash while in Nigeria and needs urgent medical attention for his or her or the child’s life to be saved. The victim is contacted by a hospital administrator because the patient is in a coma or unconscious. They will inform the victim that they found a notebook in baggage which has listed the victim as next of kin and as such the victim needs to pay for medical treatment. Without this medical attention, the patient is sure to die.
  • The scammer simply asks his victim to lend money to be able to purchase a ticket or to be able to cover departure tax always promising to repay the money once they are finally together. The scammer may claim that he or she has been mugged on the way to the airport and/or has lost his/her wallet.
  • The scammer claims to have an unpaid hotel bill and that he/she is being held hostage by the hotel manager or their passports or other documents have been confiscated. The scammer will desperately plead for money to settle the hotel bill promising to repay the money when the two finally meet.
  • Sometimes a scammer will ask the victim to open a bank account in the victim’s name or to cede control of an existing account so that the scammer or his agent can deposit a large check. The most common excuse is that the scammer wants to start a business to guarantee their future financial status but the authorities in the West African country will not allow them to leave with the check. Again, the victim becomes a potential suspect in money laundering and/or an accomplice in criminal theft.
  • Scammers frequently ask victims to reship goods for them to Nigeria. This is because many businesses in the world will not ship goods directly to Nigeria until full payment is received by their banks. A credit card in the hands of a Nigerian scammer is virtually worthless because no merchant will agree to send goods to Nigeria, but by using his/her victim’s address (normally in the United States or western Europe), he/she is able to order huge amounts of goods using the stolen credit cards. The scammer then arranges for either the victim or an associate to pick them up the following day and ship them to the scammer in Nigeria where they will be sold. When the credit card company fails to honor the payment, the merchant pursues the victim for the goods or the money. The victim becomes responsible for the bill because the goods were delivered to his or her address.
  • Eastern European scammers tend to use the guise of mail order bride agencies to scam their victims. Like their West African counterparts, the lady in question is incredibly attractive and a rapport is quickly established and the lady declares the victim to be her dream partner. Before long, there is a desire to meet to test compatibility but the victim needs to pay for her passport, visa and ticket before she can come over to be with him. Needless to say, even after giving the money, she will never materialize and the victim is left with an empty wallet and an aching heart.
  • Becoming more common is a variation of the scam –  some scammers will ask a victim to take cash advances on credit cards, then offer to pay off the balances. Of course the victim is asked to give out credit card and security information. The scammer will sometimes pay on the card, but not the entire balance, so the victim will accrue a very high interest rate on the remaining balance and advance.
  • Most common of all is that a scammer will tell the victim that they have received payment from their employer in the form of checks, money orders or another financial instrument but cannot cash the item because the bank will not honor a instrument of this type drawn on an account in a foreign country. The scammer who has by now formed a trust relationship with the victim will ask their “love one” to do a favor for them, receive the instruments, deposit them, obtain all or part of the cash (keeping some to help the “new spouse’s” household) and wire the remainder via Western Union. None of these financial documents are valid. All are fraudulent. When an item comes back unpaid, the victim is held responsible for repaying every dollar or face possible arrest for passing bad checks and fraud.

The romance scammer will keep trying to get as much money as possible from a victim until the victim can no longer afford to send money or until the victim realizes that their “loved one” has been running a con and is never going to come. More often lately, the way a victim realizes that the “love of his or her life” is a dream turned nightmare is to have law enforcement arrive at their home or place of business to question and possibly arrest them for any number of crimes, including felony fraud and money laundering. We have had several members in the past that have been arrested, taken to jail handcuffed and then charged with a felony. Recently, after a scam show was done by Oprah Winfrey, several victims who were facing prison time contacted our group and have been matched with experts to help them. I do not believe any one of these victims had any idea that they were in the middle of a scam until the moment of arrest.

 

In whatever way a victim arrives at the moment of “knowing” that this relationship has been anything but real, it is a terrible shock. Members join and lurk for awhile sometimes trying to assimilate what has happened in some way to make it have sense to them. It doesn’t. The loss of this relationship which for many has lasted from several months to several years is no different in how it feels to have a loved one die. The grief is overwhelming as is the hurt and dismay. There is utter disbelief. A new member will refuse to cut off all contact trying to hold onto the dream believing until the very last. Once the proof and realization hits and denial must be put away, the victim is left destitute – totally crushed from the inside out emotionally, psychologically and sometimes physically and then for many, financially. Many of our members have lost their homes, savings, jobs, retirement plans, maxxed out credit cards, now owe thousands of dollars in loans taken out to help their loved one get out of trouble and be able to come home or money owed because checks sent by the scammer have finally been returned to the bank in which they were deposited. The devastation financially to not only Americans but those in other western countries is horrendous and only a few will ever report the true monetary losses they have suffered. Even when the shock wears off, it is a long road to healing and many never admit what happened to them. They are too humiliated and embarrassed to admit it to any friend or family member though often are forced to because they now need financial help or will need to move in with a relative or friend to avoid homelessness.

 

It is a huge misconception that people who fall victim to this crime are lonely, fat, ugly, desperate or any of the many things we tell ourselves to feel better and assure ourselves that it could never happen to any of us. It can and does every day. It is a hidden, dirty little secret we often keep to avoid being made to feel even more ignorant and stupid for becoming involved and having been taken advantage of in this manner. I can assure you this crime crosses every type of line we in civilized society have created. There is no one who is immune to being approached and drawn in if he or she is open to the idea of finding love and a relationship.

 

Next … taking time to heal and recover….

 

 

Copyright by DianeG

Moderator/Peer Counselor

http://www.romancescams.org

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/romancescams/

 

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Pictures of Scammers RS Video

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