Internet Scams Exposed

SCAM WATCH: Internet & SMS Scams - Phishing - Email Fraud

These emails and text messages are real examples of current scams. Learn to identify them. Please forward any scams you receive to Mark Hutten: mbhutten@yahoo.com. They will be posted on this site without your email address.

What To Do If You Have Been Scammed

Have you lost money due to a scam?

Email: mbhutten@gmail.com with a description of how the scam worked (i.e., what happened exactly), and we will try to (a) locate the scam artist(s), (b) work with law enforcement to expedite prosecution, and (c) help you get some - or all - of your money back.

23.2.11

Dating Fraud and Romance Scam

Dating fraud and romance scam:

Online dating frauds are almost as old as Internet dating itself. Often referred to as a "sweetheart swindle", the con artist develops a relationship with their victim and convinces them to send money to the fraudster. The requests for money can be a one-time event, or repeated over an extended period of time. Most online dating services experience difficulties dealing with fraudsters and issue warnings to their users.

Potential dating fraud indicators include:

• Claims to be a contractor needing help with a business deal
• Claims to be a U.S. citizen who is abroad, well off, or a person of importance
• Claims to need money for a parent's "operation in the hospital"
• Requests for money, or for the victim to cash a check or money order
• The person will have an attractive photo posted on the website, but won't be willing to send any other photos.
• Victims receive "I love you" messages immediately

A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigned romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victims' money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, and/or national identification numbers or by getting the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.

Most romance scams originate from Africa, countries of ex-Soviet Union, and Asia.

Newspaper and letters—

In the 1980s prisoners within the Louisiana State Penitentiary in unincorporated West Feliciana Parish, Louisiana, United States operated an advance fee fraud scheme. Advertisements, mostly of men seeking men, appeared in newspapers in Canada and the USA. In each case, the scammer sent the mark an image of an attractive person and gave a pressing reason to send money. If the mark complies, the scammer asks for more money. Kirksey McCord Nix used the scheme to raise enough money to attempt to buy a corrupt pardon from the Governor of Louisiana.

The Internet—

Scammers post profiles on dating websites to fish for victims. Upon finding victims scammers lure them to more private means of communication to allow for fraud to occur.

Many scammers favor religious dating websites such as Christian sites, because the users are more complacent. Religious site users tend to assume that because they are on the religious site, their fellow users will have high moral values.

Rhonda McGregor, an online moderator for the ROMANCE SCAMS Yahoo! group, stated that many romance scammers avoid answering personal questions and ask their victims many questions.

Common variations—

Narratives used to extract money from the victims of romantic scams include the following:

• The scammer says their boss paid them in postal money orders. The scammer wants the mark to cash the money orders, and then wire money to the scammer. The forged money orders leave the banks to incur debts against the victims.
• The scammer says they are being held against their will for failure to pay a bill or requires money for hospital bills.
• The scammer says they are sponsoring an orphanage and require extra funds to help repair the building after a fire, a friend sends you a cheque if you can transfer the cash to the scammer.
• The scammer says they need the mark to send money to pay for a passport.
• The scammer says they need the money for their or their parents' urgent medical treatment.
• The scammer says they need the money to pay for the phone bills in order to continue communicating with you.
• The scammer says they require money for flights to the victim's country because of being left there by a stepparent, or husband/wife, or because they are just tired of living in their country and somehow never comes, or says that they are being held against their will by immigration authorities, who demand bribes.

Looking for romance over the web has become very popular over the years. Online dating is nearly a billion dollar industry and scammers are cashing in on the trend, taking advantage of vulnerable users both male and female. Every day, scammers target hundreds of online daters, and many have fallen as prey to scam that cost online daters, their valuables or giving them heartbreak and maybe getting them into some extra troubles. They do it by posing as men or women overseas or in the same area and send you a message through an online dating service. They pretend to be interested in you and provide you their “IM or email address" so that you can continue communicating with them both online and on phone. Online dating scammers use IM or email to try and build a relationship with you and they eventually confess their love for you, when you click with them, the scam kicks into a high gear, making you committed without knowing it's a romance scam.

• The scammer offers a job, often to people in a poor country, on payment of a registration fee. These are particularly common at African dating sites.
• The scammer says they need the money to successfully graduate before they can visit you.
• The scammer who is supposedly local to mark mysteriously appears stranded in a foreign country (sometimes England, to remove suspicion that would be aroused if they were in Nigeria. They can't return to the States even if you offer to pay their airfare and have a huge (unreasonably huge) check coming that they need to deposit in the mark's bank account in the States and then wire them the money. Scammer "admits" to having a local bank account in mark's area but doesn't want mark's help to deposit check there which would be the logical solution. If mark refuses to budge scammer will go somewhere else, if not then there are "complications" that require more money.

A psychological analysis of a typical scam directed towards women—

The scammer's main tool is affection, devotion, and eventually love, which he displays to victims in a series of daily letters. The level of affection grows with each letter, and people who are lonely or unhappy soon find themselves dependent on these letters, which they think are addressed exclusively to them, but in reality are templates with their names inserted in appropriate places.

Dispersed amongst the paragraphs describing how the sender is rapidly falling in love with the victim, there is usually a light description of a business venture as if the sender is describing intimate details of his business activities so the victim feels that her role is to support and advise him. This gives some mobility to what would otherwise be fairly abnormal love talk from a stranger. It also diverts the victim's attention from the unnaturalness of the rapid falling in love. At the same time the degree of apparent confidentiality shown by the scammer makes subsequent questioning regarding his business by the victim seem impolite. Subsequently the 'business venture' so developed is linked in chats to the enormous wealth and influence the scammer claims to have.

Scammers use chats primarily to determine if the victim's financial position warrants developing them as a target. This is normally presented in a fairly casual and caring setting. For instance the scammer wants to know if he is using too much of the victim's time, or if all the victim's needs are taken care of. Frequent discussions of the victim's financial situation don't appear so suspicious after the scammer divulges his successful business career to the victim. The interest in money and numbers appears as natural traits of a businessman.

Scammers compensate for poor English with excellent psychological reading of the victim. They know how and when to evoke pity, jealousy, duty, guilt, trueness to one's word and, in the end, fear of losing this magical love which is paramount in all. The victim feels unable to do anything which will place in jeopardy this world of magical love, which she may believe can occur only once in a lifetime. In effect, the victim nurtures this love and feels extreme happiness, although nothing in her life has actually changed, because the scammer never addresses reality in the letters, but only exudes cheap phrases expressing love and care.

This addiction clouds all reason, and the fear of losing the scammer's love leads victims to acquiesce to financial favors for the scammer. For the scammer, the desire of victims favor him financially equates with proof of love. For the victim, financial favors are nothing, compared to losing the chance for a love of a lifetime.

Victims misinterpret the situation because they have difficulty distinguishing devotion from predation. They fall prey to an illusion of love created by flattery, attention, and evocation of feelings of pity and jealousy.

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