Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Aussies lose millions to Nigerian scams

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Karen Dearne | May 22, 2008

NIGERIAN authorities are presently prosecuting nine “advance fee” fraudsters who conned unsuspecting Queenslanders, but millions of dollars continue to flow out to African scammers, Queensland Police warns.

“Unfortunately, we see more more money leaving our shores every day,” Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, operations commander of the Fraud and Corporate Crime Group, said.

“Just last week, I was on the phone to a person who had sent $585,000 believing he was involved with a pipeline business venture with Nigerian government officials.

“This was an intelligent, articulate man who was successfully self-employed, yet I had difficulty persuading him not to send any more money.”

Det Supt Hay said Queenslanders – and other Australians – continued to be conned as scammers varied their modes of operation. “Queensland represents around one fifth of all fraud victims so it’s a huge problem for all states.”

“Offenders are focusing more on higher volume but lower value transactions, they’ve become more technical in their processes and are using black market web portals to obtain data, and they’re working closely with organised groups such as Russian gangs,” he said.

“But romance scams are the big new threat – we’re seeing a great deal of energy being put into victimising people through online dating websites.”

The issues are being discussed by online dating agencies, travel and transport firms, banks and government agencies at a forum hosted by Queensland Police, Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and AusCERT on the Gold Coast Thursday.

Queensland’s state crime command has taken a lead in combatting advance fee fraud – where scammers promise victims a share of large capital sums if they can help by providing money upfront to release funds – and last year held an inaugural Nigerian fraud symposium to raise awareness.

As a result of that work, in conjunction with the EFCC, nine people are now awaiting trial in Nigeria on charges of scamming Queenslanders.

Despite this, the number of payments by Queenslanders to Nigerian fraudsters grew by more than 15 per cent in the past year, and the money value was averaging over half a million dollars, per month, Det Supt Hay said.

“And that doesn’t take into account the money that goes to Ghana, the Ivory Coast, Amsterdam, London, Tokyo, New York or Russia,” he said. “While everyone has heard of the Nigerian letters, there’s almost a belief that it’s not a scam because the money is going to Ghana.

“That’s why we’re now calling it advance fee fraud – this is not just about Nigeria, it’s a global phenomenon.”

Nigerian EFCC representative Abdulkarim Chukkol said the government crackdown on advance fee fraud had resulted in more than 200 successful convictions in the past five years, pushing many of the “kingpins” into other African countries. However, many still used Nigerian names, fake letterheads and coats of arms even though they were now operating elsewhere.

“We’ve had cases of Australians who have brought complaints to us, but when we’ve investigated the scammers are not Nigerian nationals, they’re not based there, and the money has actually been directed to Ghana, Spain, the Netherlands – anywhere, really,” Mr Chukkol said.

“The big players don’t want to do business in Nigeria any more.”

Det Supt Hay said the fraudsters now preferred to meet their victims in third countries. “We’ve had people fly from Brisbane to Amsterdam, Singapore and London to attend ‘business meetings’ with scammers.”

AusCERT general manager Graham Ingram said this was a dangerous development.

“It’s no longer simply the money – people are going with it,” he said. “People are hopping on a plane and going to deal in third countries. That brings the real risk of physical harm.”

In fact, Mr Chukkol, said very few of Nigeria’s 150 million citizens were engaged in scamming, and many local people also fell victim to fraudsters after easy money.

“You don’t have to be very sophisticated to do this, it’s just a matter of sending emails and trying to persuade people to give you money,” he said. “They’re not using spyware, they don’t want to hack into your system or bank account; they simply contact you and promise a share of millions if you pay certain fees that will let them access the money.”

People looking for love online have proved particularly easy prey – mainly because dating website profiles provide personal information and preferences that allow scammers to tailor their approach.

But “Mr Right” or the Russian bride hopes to dupe the lovelorn into becoming a money-launderer or drug mule, Det Supt Hay warns.

“We know romance victims have been set up as mules for the transportation of heroin into Australia, or persuaded to transfer stolen funds or property, generally under the guise of doing a favour for a friend,” he said.

“You know, ‘I’ve just bought a laptop that I can’t get in Nigeria, I’ll have it delivered to your address, can you please on-forward it to me in Lagos?’ Of course, the laptop would have been purchased over the internet using a stolen or compromised credit card.

“Often, people are asked to take a suitcase back with them ‘for a friend’, and it’s been lined with heroin. And there are instances where people have been asked to cash cheques to pay for a visit. Of course, it’s a faked cheque, and several months down the track the victim discovers it’s fraudulent and the financial institution wants them to refund that money.”

Det Supt Hay said romance victims were “on a hiding to nothing”.

“Not only may they lose their savings, assets and possessions, but the experience is extremely traumatic,” he said.

“There may have been an online relationship for six months before the actual sting, so people end up emotionally destroyed and there’s whole of social impacts such as loss of self-esteem or ill-health.”

Karen Dearne attended AusCERT 2008 on the Gold Coast as a guest of AusCERT

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June 5, 2008 - Posted by | Uncategorized

3 Comments »

  1. Good evening,

    I just wanted to share this with you. I am a 51 year old woman from Québec, Canada. About tree weeks ago I was contacted by a man on DATE.ca. We started exchanging, he was very loving and nurturing. I feel in love with all the beautiful things he was telling me. After a week, he told me that he had to go to London, England for business and he sent me a dozen beautiful roses for me not to forget him while he was gone. And I tough, this is the man I have been looking for all my life. Then from London, he had to go to Ghana, Africa. When he got there, he came to me on Yahoo and told me that he was very upset. And me to ask why. He told me that he plugged is computer in the wall and that the electricity was not the same as in the US and that is computer exploded. And that all of his important data (because he told me he was a geologist) where gone. He then asked me if I love him, and me to reply that yes I loved him. He asked me if it would be possible for me to send him a computer, I was puzzled, and said How could I, me beeing in Canada. I told him that it would be much easier for him to purchase it there. He told me to remember that he did not carry credit cards with him because he had a bad experience with them before. He sais that he did not want to use all of his cash to buy it. That he would have to stay longer in Ghana and could not spare the money. Then again he asked me if I could do it. I told him that I did not have the money and that all of my credit cards where max out. He told me that id was OK that he would manage by himself.

    Then the next day, he was very pitifull, and told me that he wanted a miracle to happen, and that he would be very gratefull if he could get his hands on $1,000.00 that he would be very appreciative. I told him again that I could not do anything for him.

    By the, I was kinda suspicious and I went on the internet to verify his home adress that he had given me and it turn out to be a business adress in California.

    I started putting everything together and wrote him a very nasty e.mail confronting him with all of my suspision. Well, you should have read what he told me. That I broke is heart and the trust he had put in me. How could I beleive all of this after all of what he share with him.

    He was very good, he made me feel like the bad guy. And at first, I taught, what am I doing here, I might be loosing the best guy I could ever dream of having in my life.

    I have to tell you that he is very good at was he is doing. It is very scary just to think about it. He even asked me on night if I beleive in God and if I prayed. Then he tells me that he wants to share is night prayers with me and wrote this long and beautiful prayer. I tought what a wonderful man to share is spiritual beliefs with me.

    This guy is very very good. And like it says in the article, they are very convincing.

    At this time, I just came back from a long weekend and I was not here. I know he tried to reach me, and I am just waiting for him to come on Yahoo messenger. I will copy and paste this article and ask him to read it. I am sure that afterthat he will definitely leave me alone.

    And also, I will email date.ca and let them know about him, so they can block him off.

    I feel very sorry for all the women that he is playing that scam with because I consider myself like a very intelligent woman and I fell for it untill it came down to ”If you really love and trust me you could do this for me”. How golliball does he think that I am. But I am sure that there is a lot of woman that have sent him money to buy is love.

    Trust me, I will make all of my friends aware of this and hope that I will be able to help at least one of them.

    Thank you for reading me and I hope that in some way, with my testimomy I will help a little bit to put all these people behind barrs. I think it is hawfull that they pray on innocent people.

    Where is our world going to if you can’t even trust the ones that pretend loving you.

    One more thing, he really made me feel great and even my friends where telling me that it showed that I was in love. Even if the ordeal lasted only tree weeks. I was very devastated by the extend of the hurt I felt with this experience. Scary, very Scary!!!!

    Thank God that I am blested with a great family and friends that waited for me to start asking questions and beeing aware of the situation, one of them in particular after listening to me, suggested that I would go check this internet site. I am very happy that I read this article, it made me feel a lot better and stronger.

    Thank you again

    Diane Plouffe
    Québec, Canada

    P.S. Please forgive my writing, I may have made spelling mistakes.

    Excusez moi, je suis française!!!

    God bless for people like you that makes people like me aware that they are not alone.

    Comment by Diane Plouffe | September 2, 2008 | Reply

  2. Has been asking help after was scammed by nigerian from the month of july until now and email to saying investigating and no answer yet how long take to investigate although got the scammers phone number i need my money back please understand my situatio

    Comment by malaysian | October 24, 2010 | Reply

  3. was contacted by a John Thomas who was lonely looking for love. We talked for 4 months and he sent love poems everyday and said he wanted to spend his life making me happy. I fell madly in love with him. He was coming from Africa to meet me.He sent a check for 150,000 he said for our expenses and future planning. well the day he is to arrive i get an email from a dr. that he is in intensive care.i knew then i was scammed and that the check is fake but looks real.they were wanting me to deposit check and send money for his treatment.I am devastated because i fell in love with a man that doesnt exist and i was scammed. I dont know that i will ever get over the experience I find myself hoping he will show up but deep down i know he doesnt exist

    Comment by Diane | April 5, 2011 | Reply


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