Over the past few days the media has been dominated by reports of the sharp increase in internet dating scam victims and the financial and emotional cost it brings. This advice from Insight Investigations director and Vice Chairman of the World Association of Private Investigators Tony Smith, looks at how to spot the signs of an internet dating scam, how to protect yourself from internet dating scams and most importantly, how to avoid internet dating scams.
With recent government figures saying that some 40,000 people have been victims of online dating scams,Insight Investigations can confirm that this is now becoming a major problem as our increasing client list proves. Insight have taken many such cases and, on occasions, have been able to reunite the client with some or all of their money, but sadly on other occasions the fraudsters have been long gone along with the clients money.
Joining a Dating website is as old as the Internet and most remain a wholly useful tool to meet your future partner, but increasingly those sites are being targeted by gangs who’s only interest is to fleece the unsuspecting. Most Dating sites operate strict controls in an attempt to ‘vet’ their members but as they increasingly get more ‘savvy’ these experienced thieves regularly pass the vetting procedures and begin to trawl the site in search of the unwary.
Lets not beat about the bush here, these are highly organised gangs working out of a ‘factory like’ set up usually based, but not always, in the likes of Nigeria and the Ivory Coast where they invent a variety of persona and ply their trade online. They will tell their target any number of stories to prove their credentials and on some occasions the stories can be incredibly in depth with some checkable facts. Most recently US and UK military identities have been used on many occasions with the fraudster saying he’s deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Once the target is ‘hooked’ there will begin a pattern of requests for cash amounts usually increasing until they have emptied the targets bank account, drained them of their savings, or they have been ‘found out’. Once this happens they will fade away never to be heard from again.
Irrespective of where they are based the fraudsters have accomplices around the world to facilitate the collection of monies.
Legally, this is known as an “Advance Fee Fraud” or a “419 Scam” and was first recorded in 1992. The 419 is taken from the Nigerian Penal Code number that relates to such Fraud.
How do you avoid it happening to you?
There are several checks that can be made and things that can be done to ensure that the person whom you have become attached to on-line is genuine. Some of the main ‘tells’ are listed below but as the invented profiles vary so much it is not possible to give all the various scenarios here but we will happily give you a discreet free consultation on the phone should you have any doubts whatsoever.
(1) Have you ever spoken to them, or do they give excuses why they cannot talk ?
This usually runs between the ‘cant speak today I’m on operations’ excuse, to the “My phone has been confiscated as I’m on active service” and many other excuses in between.
(2) Their grammar
Is the syntax of their written conversation of a standard that you would expect, given the background they have told you or does it sound ‘foreign’ ?
(3) Does their home address check out ? Are they, or have they ever been, registered at the address? The fraudsters will trawl the Internet for an address and can obtain sufficient information about it to make you believe its genuine
(4) The photographs they have sent you, are they genuine ? Can the uniform or background be identified?
They will use US or UK military ranks and obtain photographs, again from the Internet, and these will be real people.
(5) Have they asked you for cash ?
This regularly takes the form of requiring an amount for them to be released from their duties in order to fly and see you, a childs birthday, a major car repair or a sick relative that requires an operation. The excuses are wide and varied and will be tailored to what would effectively push YOUR buttons
(6) Have they asked for a cash payment to be made via Western Union, MoneyGram etc in a name, usually not the one you know ?
This is the fraudsters mainline of income where the cash can be collected anywhere in the world once a the required reference numbers are given. This is where the fraudsters accomplice comes in. Occasionally, money is requested to be paid direct into a legitimate Bank Account, which is then immediately withdrawn.
The Global Laws on Money Laundering have enabled the Money Transfer Companies to become aware of their abuse, and they have been recently known to refuse to accept monies lodged in some names, they cannot be aware of all the various identities and accomplices scattered throughout the world however so this fraud will continue.
The above can only be described as an attempt to partially explain this phenomena as there is a multitude of permutations that we at Insight Investigations have experienced during our investigations.
If you are in any doubt then call Insight Investigations free where we can discuss your particular circumstances in the strictest confidence, our private investigators are highly experienced in dealing with internet dating scams and can advise on how to avoid internet dating scamsor visit http://www.investigate.co.uk.