Online dating scammers are rife, particularly on social media where they prey upon and reach out to women who are lonely, they almost certainly know a percentage of women will take the bait and engage with them online. The scammers usually have a nice looking profile picture and send out a charming message that is very believable.
“Audrey Elaine Elrod was divorced, depressed and broke when a romance-scammer targeted her on Facebook, posing as a widowed Scottish oil-rig worker who admired her photo and sympathized with her plight.”
Cory Doctrow from mentions that “The scammer took her for everything she had, costing her her home and car, and simultaneously getting her to launder money for his “friend,” a “Nigerian bank manager” who needed assistance to help his clients convert their money to dollars without tipping off the corrupt Nigerian authorities.” She became so obsessed
with the idea of this “fake” lover that she went on the launder money and ‘soon she was picking up wire transfers at her own account, converting them to multiple money-orders and sending them back from different remittance services all over her collapsed West Virginia coal town.’
In January of 2014, the U.S Attorney’s district office in Virginia released the following statement: “Elrod was a participant in a Nigerian wire fraud scheme in which money was sent to Elrod from victims. Elrod then structured the transactions and forwarded most of the proceeds to Nigeria, via wire transfer. Between March 2012 and July 2013, Elrod received $446,927 in wire transfers into bank accounts she controlled. Between July 2012 and July 2013, Elrod structured $411,411 in cash transactions in an effort to hide her activity from the government.”
Brendan Koerner from Wired.com offers the following advice to anyone who believes they could be involved in romantic scam:
The scammers set up a fake profile on a social-media or dating site. The man they invent is a ruggedly handsome, middle-aged widower who yearns to love again. He usually works in a macho job in a far-flung location—some-thing that provides good excuses to avoid face-to-face meetings.
2. The Grooming Phase
Once a woman gets drawn in, the scammer showers her with gestures of affection through email or instant messaging: declarations of love, plagiarized poems, compliments on her beauty. The scammer also asks personal questions about the victim’s life—the key to establishing an intimate connection.
3. The Gift
Satisfied that the mark is infatuated, the scammer concocts a situation that can be solved with a bit of money: He claims to need a few hundred dollars for a visa or money to travel. If the victim agrees to provide the cash, the scammer knows she’s on the hook.
4. The Crisis
Suddenly something goes horribly wrong. The scammer pleads for several thousand dollars to pay for a major surgery or to escape a legal predicament. Afraid she’ll never get to meet her beloved unless she complies, the victim wires the requested funds.
5. The Bleed
More aggressive demands for money ensue, until the victim either loses everything or gets wise to the con. At that point, the scammer either vanishes or tries to convince the victim to launder money on his behalf.
Cory Doctrow –boingbong.com
Department of Justice- Western Virginia
Brendan Koerner- Wired Magazine