Over the years many people have been fraud into giving large sums of money to strangers, some in the name of love and others in the name of humanity. Many reports of various cases of fraud have been identified particularly around the ones committed using love as a way of cunning victims also known as “419” fraud.
In October 2016, a BBC article reported that “Maria Grette first discovered that the 58-year-old Danish man with whom she had fallen in love online was actually a 24-year-old Nigerian “419” internet scammer”.
Maria Grette’s case is just one example of the many cases of 419 reported in the UK. Due to the theme of love used as a tool lure victim online, many individuals are now sceptical and critical of the use of online dating apps. Although the theme of love has been identified in most cases of 419 it must be acknowledged that this is not and may not be the case for all 419 cases as scammer have various tactics of grooming victims.
Four (4) steps used by scammers in majority of 419 cases
- Often, a scammer poses as a suitor by creating a profile on a dating website with a false identity including, name, age, place of birth, place of residency, background, occupation and many more.
- The scammer lures the victim into a romance through “sweet talk”, sharing of false deep personal issues, questioning about specific areas of victim’s life’s to identify vulnerabilities, false promises etc
- Once a relationship has been established and the victim has been lured into a romantic relationship, the victim then creates a fake scenario requiring financial support (e.g, an illness which require urgent medical attention, robbery, family circumstance, business idea / investment etc) and ask for a victim’s support.
- Due to the false sense of a loving relationship, victims support the scammers in the name of love, sympathy and most times with promises of having their money repaid back to them in due time. At times, scammers continue to take money from victims by creating various scenarios requiring financial aid which could be ongoing for months -years.
It has to be noted that, this type of calculated scam is very difficult to detect as scammers do not mind investing months and even years of dedicated persuasion to scam money from their victims.
A YouTube documentary (United Kingdom modern 419 scam- documentary) published in November 2017 highlighted some examples of individuals affected by modern online romance scams and its lasting financial and psychosocial impact.
Who is to blame?
Some argue that, the one who breaks the law is always to blame. Subsequently, others argue that despite obvious signs some victims choose to give away huge sums of money to people they have never met and this makes them naïve.
It is important to know that 419 scammers do not only target online dating users. Some through PayPal transactions, bank accounts and money transfers, a request to change banking details, refund scams, deals etc.
It is also important to know that although reports say that 419 scams originated in Nigeria other scammers have originated from countries including Philippines, Malaysia, Russia, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States.
- How can you protect yourself?
Do not respond to any emails from strangers asking for support or emails from banks requesting for bank details. Delete it straight away.
- Never travel anywhere if offered by a stranger, even if it is not far to go.
Do not send money or give credit card details, online account details or details of personal documents to strangers.
- Do not do any arrangement with a stranger that asks for up-front payment via online banking, international funds transfer, pre-loaded card or electronic currency.
- Do not transfer money for someone else. Money laundering is a criminal offence.
- If someone is claiming to be from a specific organisation verify the identity through online searches and other useful resources.
- Internet search using the names, contact details or exact wording of the letter/email as many scams can be identified this way.
If you think it’s a scam, don’t respond — scammers will use a personal touch to play on emotions and prey on vulnerabilities to get money. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
Reference and Further Reading
- https://www.scamwatch.gov.au/types-of-scams/unexpected-money/nigerian-scams (Australian resource)
- A YouTube documentary (United Kingdom modern 419 scam- documentary)