Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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A romance scam cost one local woman $718,000 – and she isn’t alone

http://buffalonews.com/2017/08/12/romance-scammer-cheats-local-woman-718000/

A romance scam cost one local woman $718,000 – and she isn’t alone

 

Among the wealthy men advertising for a life partner, Marvin Roecker seemed like a good catch.

After all, he was on MillionaireMatch.com and his constant wooing – the intimate phone calls, romantic texts and personal online messages – strongly suggested he was serious about the Western New York woman he met online.

And then came the big “ask.”

Roecker, it seems, was in the midst of a $7 million deal to sell dried cocoa beans to Kraft Heinz, but he needed extra cash to pay for the shipping and insurance. Share Tweet

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Among the wealthy men advertising for a life partner, Marvin Roecker seemed like a good catch.

After all, he was on MillionaireMatch.com and his constant wooing – the intimate phone calls, romantic texts and personal online messages – strongly suggested he was serious about the Western New York woman he met online.

And then came the big “ask.”

Roecker, it seems, was in the midst of a $7 million deal to sell dried cocoa beans to Kraft Heinz, but he needed extra cash to pay for the shipping and insurance.

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When he asked his new friend, a highly paid, white-collar professional, for the money, he promised to repay it, plus interest. He also promised her a romantic relationship.

In the end, he reneged on both, and the woman is now out $718,000.

From the criminal complaint against Jason Osei Bonsu.

“People make bad decisions when they’re in vulnerable places,” said Jason Fickett, a supervisory special agent for the FBI in Buffalo.

Turns out the local woman was the victim of a romance scam, a crime that investigators say is on the rise here and across the country.

Nationally, there were 14,546 victims of romance scams, men and women, last year, and they were cheated out of $219 million, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Romance scams reported in 2016
New York StateUnited States58114,546
The Buffalo News » SOURCE:FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
data
×
United States 14546
United States 14546
New York State 581
Romance scams reported in 2016
download csv

More often than not, the victims are women older than 50, often widowed or divorced, and frequently savvy about computers and social media.

“They’re all looking for love,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott S. Allen Jr. said.

On the other end of those texts, phone calls and emails are criminals, many of them in foreign countries, posing as available and wealthy single men and women.
“Mr. Roecker”

In the case of the local woman who lost $718,000, she received a photo of Roecker, a photo that she later learned was someone else, a Realtor in Texas. The Realtor’s name is not Marvin Roecker, and the FBI says there is no evidence he knew about the scheme.

No one is certain who was behind the Roecker persona, but two men, both of them citizens of Ghana, have been charged with taking part in the scam.

Jason Osei Bonsu and Adams Amen were arrested last month while in the United States and recently appeared in a Buffalo courtroom to face federal fraud charges. They also face likely deportation.

Investigators say the local case is a mirror of the romance scams they see across the country.

“A typical part of these schemes is the continuing dialogue between the victim and perpetrator,” said Robert J. Gross, a supervisory special agent for the FBI in Buffalo.

Typically, the scammers use their initial contacts with the victim to build trust and rapport, and the communication is often intimate, even romantic.

“They’re trying to figure out what buttons to push,” Gross said, “and if they’re really good, the victims won’t even know their buttons are being pushed.”
Other victims

The local woman is not the only one who fell victim to Bonsu and Amen, according to court papers. The two men also are accused of cheating a man in South Dakota out of $72,500 as part of a separate romance scam.

The man was apparently told his money would pay for shipping and insurance costs associated with an inheritance, including a large quantity of gold.

Losses from romance scams in 2016
Amounts in millions of dollars
New York StateUnited States7.1219.87.1
The Buffalo News » SOURCE:FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center
data
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United States $219.8 million
United States 219.8
New York State 7.1
Losses from romance scams in 2016
download csv

As part of their scheme here, Amen and Bonsu spent three months communicating with their female victim through cellphone and email accounts established under Marvin Roecker’s name, according to the criminal complaints filed against them.

Prosecutors say that kind of recruitment period is typical.

“It’s just continuous over time,” Allen said of the texts, phone calls and emails criminals use to woo a victim.

In February of last year, the woman still hadn’t met Roecker, but she wired him $65,000, the first of five payments. She made her final wire transfer in April, this time for $465,000 in cash.

Roecker, as part of his deal with the woman, had agreed to fly to the United States to be with her once his cocoa beans were shipped, and he provided an airline itinerary indicating when he would arrive in Buffalo.

Even after that final payment, Roecker made a last-ditch attempt to get even more money out of the victim, investigators say.

He – or they – arranged fake phone calls from “authorities” in Ghana, saying Roecker had been stopped at the airport because he was trying to take gold out of the country without proper documentation, the FBI says in its complaints.

When the caller asked for money to cover the additional costs, the local woman balked.

“At that point, she realized she had been had,” Gross said.
14,000 victims

Investigators suspect others were victimized by the scam and point to the high number of romance schemes – an estimated 80 to 90 percent – that go unreported.

Obviously, one reason is embarrassment. Victims of romance scams tend to lose more money than victims of other cyber-related frauds.

In 2016, the more than 14,000 men and women who fell victim to romance schemes finished 11th in the FBI’s ranking of cyber crime victims across the nation.

But those same victims lost more money than the victims in all but one other kind of cyber crime that the agency tracked.

The other hurdle facing investigators is the fact that many of these predators are based in foreign countries such as Nigeria and Russia, making arrests and prosecutions difficult.

Amen and Bonsu are natives of Ghana, but they were arrested while traveling in the United States. Investigators believe Ghana is a hotbed of romance scammers.

More and more, according to the FBI, predators are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and one aspect of that is their increasing use of social media in identifying potential victims. They look for men and women who post openly about their dreams and life goals, and they often exploit personal information in making their initial contact.

For Fickett, there are lessons to be learned from what other men and women have gone through.

“Social media is the avenue these people use to access their victims,” he said. “Be careful about the information you share and be careful about who you share it with.”

For Allen, the prosecutor handling the Bonsu and Amen cases, there is one obvious red flag that almost always pops up in romance scams.

“If a person you’ve never met asks you for money, it’s probably a good thing to avoid,” he said.

Defense attorneys for Bonsu and Amen said they could not comment at this time.

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September 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

‘I don’t know why I’m so stupid’: How accepting a friend request cost this Melbourne mum $570,000

LATE last year, Melbourne woman Jennifer Chen* accepted a friend request from a handsome American doctor named Frank Harrison.

The 61-year-old, originally from China, thought nothing of it, having regularly received messages from men on Facebook where she promoted her acupuncture business.

A year later, that friend request has cost her nearly $600,000.

“I don’t know how to explain,” she said. “I don’t know the real world, what’s happening. I’ve never experience someone cheat me. Many time I want to end my life. I feel hopeless.”

Ms Chen, who asked not to use her real name, was the victim of a sophisticated tag-team of scammers playing the roles Dr Frank Harrison, an orthopedic surgeon from the US, Michelle Tan, a Malaysian customs officer, and Raja Bin Abudullah from OCBC Malaysia Bank.

In reality, the group were likely internet scammers from Africa.

The photo of Dr Harrison, stethoscope around his neck, is actually a picture of US weight loss expert Dr Garth Davis from the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and pops up regularly in fake profiles used by online scammers.

Posting on Facebook earlier this year, Dr Davis warned of fake Instagram accounts using his photo. “This account in the picture is not mine,” he wrote. “I also am not on any dating sites. And I do not need you to send me money. Lots of people stealing pics and making fake accounts.”

Despite part of the eye-watering sum stolen from Ms Chen being paid to the Commonwealth Bank account of a Victorian-based cleaning supplies company, police say they are powerless to help.

“We have no power, even the police have no power to stop them,” Ms Chen said. “The Australian police don’t care, [they say], ‘It’s too hard, too hard.’”

The scam started in early November, two months after Ms Chen was befriended on Facebook by “Dr Harrison”, who had told her he was thinking of moving to Australia to start a business and wanted to meet her in person.
This photo of US weight loss expert Dr Garth Davis has been used by Nigerian scammers for fake social media profiles. “I am not on any dating sites,” he wrote on Facebook. “And I do not need you to send me money.”

This photo of US weight loss expert Dr Garth Davis has been used by Nigerian scammers for fake social media profiles. “I am not on any dating sites,” he wrote on Facebook. “And I do not need you to send me money.”Source:Supplied

“In early November I got a phone call from him,” she said. “He told me, ‘I’m at the airport in KL, I got in trouble.’ I said, ‘What kind of trouble?’ He said, ‘I carried $US1.5 million through customs, they think I’m carrying too much cash. I got big penalty. Please help me.’”

She then received a phone call from a woman calling herself “Michelle Tan”. Convinced by the woman on the other end of the phone that Dr Harrison and his $US1.5 million would be released if Ms Chen paid a “penalty fee” of $3000, she finally gave in.

“The customs officer girl, she told me stuff that sounds very true, I really believe,” she said.

Starting with that first $3000, the scammers managed to string Ms Chen along for six months, convincing her to make no fewer than 33 payments — $5000 or $10,000 here, $20,000 or $30,000 there — concocting a litany of excuses.

Security fees, stamp duty, demurrage, legal costs, refund fees, GST. Just one more payment, and the $US1.5 million would be released, and all of her money would be repaid.

“I don’t know why I’m so stupid,” she said. “My psychology is I already pay the money to him, the girl tell me once you pay this you will get the money back, customs will release the luggage to him.

“I didn’t wake up, I didn’t realise both of them are group scam. I also scared to tell me husband. Finally I had to tell my husband I made a big mistake.”

By the time she came clean to her husband, she had paid the scammers a total of $571,000 — her entire life savings, plus some of her husband’s superannuation.

Mr Chen, himself originally from Malaysia, blamed his wife’s naivety on her upbringing in Communist China. “The scammers used Facebook information to pick their targets,” the 62-year-old said. “They have a team that play different roles to manipulate the emotions of the victim. It’s just a matter of time [before] they harvest more Australian victims.”

Mr Chen said while Malaysian police managed to track down and arrest one of the mules in the northwestern state of Kedah within days, Australian police seemed powerless.
One of the fake documents the scammers used to fool Ms Chen.

One of the fake documents the scammers used to fool Ms Chen.Source:Supplied

Two of the early payments, one for $10,000 and another for $15,000, were made to the bank account of Laverton North-based cleaning supplies company Statewide Cleaning Cloths Pty Ltd. When contacted by the investigating officer from Victoria Police, the company said it received the payments from Ms Chen as payment from an overseas company.

“This international company informed them that local parties owed them money and were paying off the debt by paying Statewide Cleaning Cloths,” the officer told Mr Chen in an email.

“Statewide Cleaning Cloths has refused to identify the company I have no power to demand it of them … At this stage there is nothing further I can do in relation to this investigation. I am sorry there is nothing further I can do for you.”

Statewide Cleaning Cloths Pty Ltd has been contacted for comment. Two other Australian bank accounts into which Ms Chen deposited cash were owned by individuals in NSW and the ACT.

“I have no jurisdiction to take this forward,” the Victoria Police officer wrote. “I will be compiling a file which will be sent to the relevant police forces. I’m sure the other police forces will contact you if they make progress with your investigation.”

In 2016, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Australian Cybercrime Online Reporting Network together received more than 200,000 reports of online scams, with losses totalling nearly $300 million.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics, however, estimates the total amount lost to personal fraud could be closer to $3 billion, as many victims do not report their experiences.

So-called “Nigerian scams”, in which the victim is convinced to pay or transfer money, were the fifth biggest category, with 2255 reports and $15.6 million reported lost last year, according to the ACCC’s most recent scam report.

“Scammers who use social media hide behind the anonymity of seemingly legitimate profiles, contact a large number of people and make what appear to be genuine connections,” the report said.

“Victims contacted via social media will generally receive a friend request or a private message from someone they have never met before.

“The scammer may pretend to be a friend of a friend or express an interest in meeting new people. They attempt to develop a relationship very quickly with the victim and often urge the victim to move to other online platforms, such as Skype, to continue the scam.”

frank.chung@news.com.au
http://www.news.com.au/finance/money/costs/i-dont-know-why-im-so-stupid-how-accepting-a-friend-request-cost-this-melbourne-mum-570000/news-story/2a9ba435274e1c8649c9f7ef8a689282

September 14, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

EFCC arraigns 2 for €88,000 romance scam

http://thenewsnigeria.com.ng/2017/05/efcc-arraigns-2-for-e88000-romance-scam/

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday arraigned the duo of Ajani Isaac Adedotun, (a.k.a. Clara Williams and Lara Williams) and Adesina Segun Adedeji before Justice A.D. Oladimeji of the Osun State High Court sitting in Ede, on a 50-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining money by false pretence.

The petitioner alleged that the victim, M. Wassink, a Dutch citizen, was defrauded of over €88,000 in an Internet romance scam.

One of the counts reads: “Ajani Isaac Adedotun (a.k.a Clara Williams, Lara Williams) and Adesina Segun Adedeji, on or about the 5th day of March, 2014 at Ile Ife, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, with intent to defraud, obtained the sum of €23,000 through Adesina Segun Adedeji’s Skye Bank account from M. Wassink, under the false pretence that you are a female from Belgium and had travelled to Nigeria to buy some gemstones and bracelets and that the said sum of money represented fees for the officials securing the gemstones for you, which representation you knew to be false.”

The accused persons, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to them.

In view of their pleas, the prosecuting counsel, Vera Agboje, asked the court for a trial date and prayed the court to remand the accused in prison custody.

 

However, counsel to the accused persons, Sanyaolu S. Akinyele and T. S. Adegboyega, respectively prayed the court to grant their clients bail.

Justice Oladimeji adjourned the case to May 16, 2017 for hearing of the bail applications and ordered the accused to be remanded in Ilesa prison custody.

July 2, 2017 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

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