Types of Romance scams
All romance scammers pretend to be deeply in love with you. Almost all pretend to be someone else. Their purposes include:
· Stealing money from victims (usually African scammers, but can also be from other countries or your own country)
· Use victims as mules for drug trafficking (local or overseas scammers)
· Use victims as mules for money laundering (local or overseas scammers)
· Steal personal information from victims such as passport information or bank account information (local or overseas scammers)
· Blackmail victims, if they have sent sexy photos or videos (local or overseas scammers)
· Rape - including under-age victims. Some have even been killed. (Usually local romance scammers.)
Foreign scammers are not under your countries’ jurisdiction and are hard to catch. Many are from corrupted countries such as Nigeria. Even if you have all the evidence, their police may just ignore it.
Local scammers are at least under your country’s jurisdiction. However, they can commit different types of crime, such as raping and killing victims.
Fake Online dating profiles
A fake online lover can approach you through the below channels:
- Dating websites or single chats
- Any websites for connecting people such as Linkedin, meetup.com, yahoo groups, prayer sites, forums, etc…
- Whatsapp, facebook, etc… any online apps for connecting new or existing friends.
And the online dating profiles can be constructed from:
a) An existing person, using real name and real photos, but the person talking to you is not the person in photos or videos.
b) A person that does not exist, with photos stolen from
i. public websites such as facebook, OR
ii. another victim who willingly send out a whole bunch of his/her photo or personal videos as they thought they are talking to a handsome/beautiful admirer
To let romance scammers easily memorize “who himself/herself is”, the same online dating profile is usually re-used to scam multiple victims at the same time, or at different time of a year. However, in order to get your heart quickly and effectively, many fake online lovers will tailor-make their character or background based on your own online profile. For example, your profile says you are a Christian, love playing the piano, Chinese background, then he/she would claim himself/herself as a Christian, love listening to music, love Chinese food - making you feel he/she is a rare match to you.
Fake proofs, Fake documents
Show you fake passport, fake official documents, fake banking documents (Well, Romance scam is a severe offence anyway. And fake documents are so prevalent in their countries!)
Show you fake company website.
Show you a great deal of "his/her" photos and personal videos, which actually belongs to another person - they got them from another victim, or download from facebook etc...
Provide 3rd party contacts, who actually belong to the same criminal group.
Tricks and Techniques
Romance scammers are full-time actors and actresses. They build reasonably realistic and consistent profiles for online lovers, partially copied from a real human (except that himself/herself is not actually that person), and use the same profile to scam multiple victims at a time.
A fake online lover presents solid and sound plans to meet with you in person soon. Although they know they can never execute them, they repeatedly assure you about these plans.
A fake online lover tells you to plan your beautiful future with him/her –tell you to plan your wedding with him/her, assure happy family with or without children, guaranteed visa to migrate to his/her developed country, no need to work after marrying him or her, happily ever after... – these empty promises only aims to make you dream about your beautiful future with him/her so that when he/she tell you to “borrow” money or carry bags (drug trafficking) or do other things, you can hardly refuse or you are like breaking your dream with your own hand.
A fake online lover only asks you for money helps when he/she feel that you love or trust him/her much. Can be a few months or a few years after knowing him /her.
A fake online lover shows genuine concerns about your life, your health, your work, your dream, your family, but none is genuine. Fake online lovers show passionate about you, say they love you deeply and cannot live without you.
A fake online lover gives solid excuses why they need money: emergency, injury, caught by police or immigration, business crisis, speed of transferring money, his money temporarily on hold, unexpected extra costs for work or trip to meet with you, his own money will only arrive next week, etc...
A fake online lover repeats firm and detailed promises – all hollow.
In some cases, a fake online lover may offer you a free air ticket to collect a bag for him/her, which turns out to contain drugs and the victim can be caught for drug trafficking. It will be years in jail, if not a death sentence.
In some cases, a fake online lover may have some money sent into your bank account, and ask you to send that money to a third party in a different country. You can be accused of money laundering, which is a criminal offence putting you to jail or, at least, return all the money that you have sent out.
Who Romance scammers Actually are?
A) Some of the romance scammers are controlled by international criminal groups. They are very well-organized with organization structure consists of :
§ IT experts (not always exist for smaller criminal groups and not always experts ...): can be from developed countries or developing countries, to do IT design and analyse how to avoid victims/police from identifying them or catching them.
§ Money laundering personnel: in either developed or developing countries to find a safe channel to transfer the stolen money to their criminal group without police or authorities noticing them.
§ Romance scammers (Actor / Actress), usually from developing countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, who spend full days to scam multiple people and spend victims’ money for their fantasy. They usually act well-educated, wealthy, good-hearted people in the Internet using someone else’s photos; but in reality, they are usually little educated, full of lies, very greedy, rubbish of the rubbish in the society.
These criminal group usually gives them training on acting and psychology on how to make victims trust them :)
Their IT skills are usually not excellent but the setting or general advice are provided by IT experts in the criminal group.
§ Other possible roles
The fake online lover who contacts you is the actor/actress who full-time pretend to be in love with you. All the above people share victims’ money. Some money may also go to any illegal activities such as weapons, terrorism... Who knows? most are un-traced.
B) Quite a lot of African or developing countries have their local criminal groups of similar structure as the above. Some of them only have the role of actors/actresses.
C) Others are just “tropical” criminal groups dealing with drugs and any types of illegal activities. They need people to help them do drug trafficking or want funding, and they know romance scams is an easy way to achieve and not quite looked at by polices (as of Dec-2018), so they just use it by chance to find victims to and con them into money laundering or drugs trafficking for them, or donate all their savings to them.
They can be from developing or developed countries or possibly a mix.
D) There are also independent romance scammers of any kind, in your own country or any country.
Weaknesses of romance scammers
Many. Depending on the type of romance scammers he/she is.
Almost all romance scammers use other people’s photo. He/she can never do a * high-quality * real-time webcam call with you. He will say various excuses. (Criminals can fake low-quality, real-time webcam calls with you by playing video recording. They will pretend to have poor reception.)
Also, if your online lover has an English accent that does not match the background he/she claims, then he/she is certainly a scammer.
*** Having a good English accent does not mean he/she is real or legitimate: some scammers play tapes of native English speakers; Also, romance scammers can be from English speaking countries.)
If you are uncertain, do not risk. Contact us now.
We cannot disclose all romance scammers’ weakness as we are not here to educate them on how to improve their skills. We also do not want you to over-rely on these “guess” factors.
Punishment for Romance scammers
Punishment for romance scammers varies. Apparently, if romance scammers are caught in the United States, they are likely to have very long imprisonment for about 99 years or so. But if he/she is jailed in their own African countries, they may only need to serve a few years or 10 years imprisonment for scamming AUD 700,000. (Figures from the news report. May not be very accurate. Anyway, sounds like the punishment in African countries is quite light and quite worthy for them to try, isn't it? :P
Unfortunately, it has been hard to catch them: developing countries that they reside is usually badly corrupted. Also, these countries are usually very poor and after all these criminals are bringing money into their countries. Why should their governments catch them?
I'm a Romance Scam IT Detective
Psychological Games * Real IT Analysis * Legal Matters * Gender Studies
This cybercrime detective true story & victim story involves 7 countries (Australia, the United States, Singapore, Ghana, Nigeria, China, New Zealand) in 4 continents.
Watch Selina's psychological games with Frederick the scammer; and her interaction with police, scammers, hackers, banks, lawyers and organizations make this biography emotional, fun but seriously informative.
Selina will also show you how to investigate this cybercrime, her attempts to recover the money, IT analysis / IT data in real cybercrime, misconduct of banks and possible legal matters.
It is also a gender studies book. It analyses real-life romance scams, Internet romance scams, marriage fraud vs true love.
Who can fall victim?
Victims we have seen include:
- Age group: Elderly, Mid-age, teenager (refers to government statistics )
- Sex: Male, female, gender X
- Status: Divorced, never married, widowed
- Education level: Professional, university degree holders, uneducated
- Personal attribute: ugly, beautiful, clever, stupid, greedy, kind – all can fall victim
- Social status: Rich, poor, entrepreneurs, a professor, students, graduates, workers – all can fall victim
- While most fall victim because of LOVE, some because of greed (as criminal promise beautiful future), some because of kindness (too kind to help people in need hearing their fake stories), some because of eagerness to build a family.
Anyone who is looking for a serious relationship can fall victim. But we do not think the public need to stop doing online dating because of the threat of romance scams. We need to win the fight!
Similar to real life dating, you just need to put extra caution in a proper way, and be well informed of different possible romance scams. If there is a lot of 'small things' to be suspicious, do not risk. Hang up now.
Why so many people fall victim?
It sounds really crazy people are sending money to someone they only met online. Therefore, almost everyone believes himself/herself would not fall victim. Governments also do not explain the public much on the scam details. When almost all in the public is not knowledgeable on details on how this scam actually works but continue to do online dating, they become vulnerable.
For those who are aware of romance scams, most ways to identity romance scammers vs real lover is based on guess – signs that they are “likely” to be scammers. “Guess” are not solid enough to beat romance scammer’s tricks and acting: they make victims dream of perfect marriages, in love forever, no need to work after getting married. The guess is forcing victims to choose between risking to be victimized (usually start with a small amount) or risking to lose an important person in life and a perfect future.
We want to give you real facts about your online lovers so that you can distinguish romance scammers vs real lover based on unbeatable facts, not on guesses.
Furthermore, victims naturally, subconsciously develop a psychology similar to gambling: when you first "lend" him/her money you only mean to lend little; but every time you give money, every time you subconsciously become trusting him/her more - coz you do not want to accept the fact that you have already lost some money for nothing (unless you get real evidence), and if you stop paying money then all the money you had already paid will go to nothing, so you continue this gambling and pay more money, hoping he/she may be real.
We believe this gambling psychology is the core reason why so many people end up losing their life savings and even get into debt. Best is not to even pay one single cent.
Using "LOVE" to explain everything in romance scam is a big misunderstanding as it overlooks scammer tricks, forged documents, promises of beautiful future, and the above psychology. Indeed, we did encounter a victim who did not really fall in love but still lost 70% of her life savings.
Finally, it is due to vast variation, complexity and possible new tricks of romance scams. We aim to fully analyse them and consistently inform the public on the patterns in this website.
Due to vast variation and possible new layouts of romance scams, we aim to identify 90% of romance scams with evidence if you reach out to us.
Consequences of falling victim
Loss money: you only allowed yourself to pay little, but romance scams quickly lead to gambling psychology in victims (see session: why so many people fall victim ). You only expected to pay little but end up losing a fortune.
Some victims get into huge debts and face bankrupt. Some are forced to sell their houses.
Some romance scam victims are sentenced to years in jail or even sentenced to death, as romance scammers mule victims into illegal activities including drug trafficking or money laundering. (See news in our references)
For domestic romance scams, some victims were raped or killed.
Stolen identity, if you have provided personal information like bank account details, passport details.
Heart-broken, deep disappointment
Emotional breakdown. According to psychologists, some victims can experience extreme anger, feelings of loss, blaming themselves for not recognising they were being duped.
I believe these bad feelings are not necessary and sincerely hope they can recover very quickly.
Feel shame: the public generally think that victims are naive and stupid - it is NOT true. Criminal groups are like scientists, they continuously improve their scams. Scammer profiles are not as easy to identify as before. :P
lose of job: Some scammers repeated guarantee you no need to work soon as you are going to marry this fake online lover. Some victims become less dedicated to work and are reported to have lost their jobs.
According to police, many victims report breakdowns in relation with friends or family – friends or family who repeatedly warned victims may feel angry or betrayed for not being believed or trusted, or feel victims put a stranger before themselves.
What should I do if I have fallen victim?
If you are duped to send out your own money:
1. Inform your bank or financial institution immediately. If you are very quick, it might be possible to stop or recall the fund.
2. Report to your local police immediately, and report to the cybercrime reporting authority such as ACSC in Australia or IC3 in the United States. (it is important to report it to the authority or police, because i) it gives your government a better idea on the scale of the problem and how to allocate resources. ii) if you report it, you have a very small chance of money recovery; if you do not report it, you have zero chance.
On average, every day 10 Australians are reporting similar cases. Falling victim is normal.
3. Report the scammer's profile to the dating site or LinkedIn or Facebook etc... where you knew that scammer.
4. Attempt to capture IP addresses from the criminal. IP addresses are useful in tracking down the criminal and, in many cases, IP addresses reveal actual geolocation (country/area) of the criminal.
With current high volume of similar crime and enourmous resources required for the police to look into a Internet romance scam case, best is for you to provide useful information such as IP addresses. It can also be more straightforward to capture it from your end than to wait for the police to crack into the Internet to look for such information.
Best is to add the IP addresses captured into your police report. Contact us now for capturing IP addresses if you are: a) still online with the scammer, and the scammer does not know you know he/she is fake. OR b) the scammer had previously emailed you.
5. General advice is to drop off immediately to avoid you from being re-victimized. But if you have lost a great deal of money (say, > USD 80k), consider keeping the scammer online with you so that police / you will not lose track of him/her. However, it is a very long and exhausting process and may not bring any outcome.
Read my true crime book I'm a Romance scam IT Detective to see an example of keeping the scammer online to trace them down.
It is important to understand that catching the criminal does not necessarily mean a cent will be recovered. Uncivilized criminals spend money extremely fast.
If you choose to keep him/her online, make sure you do not send more money nor release more of your personal information such as banking or passport information. Do NOT click URL that he/she sends you. Only keep him/her online with you if you consider safe to do so.
Otherwise, if you choose not to keep the scammer online with you, then just drop off immediately.
6. Try to find out the actual identity of the person in the photos that scammer pretended to be. That person is often not related to the crime, but identifying him/her proves that your case is indeed a fraud. Add this information to the police report.
Finding actual identify of that person are sometimes confusing. Contact us for the service.
7. Consider reporting to corresponding foreign police, but they may not look into it as you are not their resident nor in their country.
You should NOT inform romance scammers that you know they are fake. Otherwise, you are only educating them on how to improve their scamming skills. Remember, romance scammers are rubbish of the rubbish in the world and they commit crimes intentionally and will certainly not give you back your money because you bargain with them. There is no use negotiating with rubbish.
8. If you have lost a great deal of money and wish to try to recover money, read our book I'm a Romance scam IT Detective on what you should try and what you should not try. Money recovery on Internet romance scams has always been very difficult, but not always impossible.
If you were conned to do drug trafficking or do money laundering:
- Seek legal advice. There are useful references in our “References” tab.
What can government do?
1. Most important is government to educate the public - all walks of lives, explain what romance scammers are doing including realistic details on what can happen in a romance scam (eg. fake identity, fake passport, asking you to transfer money, asking you to carry bags which turns out to be drugs). MANY VICTIMS said if they had been warned about DETAILS of tricks and details in romance scams, they would not have fallen victim)
By nature, like other scams, romance scams are predominately a cultural thing: Someone invented romance scam and found that the tricks can gain them a great deal of money or benefits, then more criminals learn or enhance the trap. Similarly, the public should also learn the details of their tricks so that they can protect themselves from being victimized.
2. Due to the complexity of each type of scams, we advocate there needs to be a "romance scam squad", "investment scam squad" who analyse specific types of scams of the entire nation. This will vastly enhance the understanding of patterns and new tricks of romance scams and investment scams so that the government can know how to best warn the public as a prevention measure. It can also help to spot bigger and higher impact criminal groups
3. Governments of victim countries should put very heavy pressure onto attacking countries where romance scammers reside to catch romance scammers with more efforts.
In my opinion, sanctions, boycott, stop of aids should be imposed towards attacking countries if romance scammers are proved to be in their countries but they do not put sufficient efforts to catch them. Another option (maybe) to block Internet connections from attacking countries to our country if they cannot put the problem under control. Then criminals at least need more effort if they still wnt to attack.
4. Local governments where romance scammers reside should pose very heavy punishment to romance scammers. As of now, romance scammers in African countries are likely to serve only few years' jail, even if they were caught
If you believe that united nations and governments who are currently under attacks by romance scammers should give big pressure towards attacking countries including Nigeria & Ghana to catch their internet scammers, and impose very heavy penalties toward those internet scammers, please give a "Like" & Share it.
If you think governments should educate the public more on DETAILS of romance scams & investment scams, and put on advertisements / TV documentary etc more FREQUENTLY, please give us a "like" & Share it.
***************** Disclaimer **************
Our analysis is written based on our experiences, news, victim stories, discussion with other scam fighters and government announcements. We aim to give the public the best accurate information.
If you find anything missing or incorrect, please feel free to contact us so that we can update our analysis.
This website aims to help to prevent romance scams. We do our best but we do NOT assume any responsibilities nor liabilities if you use the information or misunderstanding the information which leads to any kind of consequences.
We provide services to Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong & Japan.
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