He needed money in a hurry or he’d be thrown out of the country just a few months shy of earning his degree.Candace wired him the small sum without hesitation – but when he contacted her a few weeks later saying he needed a much bigger sum to pay legal bills, she realized she was being scammed.
And that number may only represent a fraction of the real total.
According to Huff Post, FBI agents believe roughly 85% of all romance scams are never reported because the victims are too embarrassed to come forward.
They usually claim to have jobs that keep them outside the country for long periods of time, such as working on an oil rig, serving in the military, or working for a nonprofit.
Next, they seek out victims – usually people who are lonely and vulnerable – and work to build up relationships with them.
Online romance scams are a form of “catfishing” scam, in which a person creates a fake online identify.
Some catfishers use these fake identities to annoy or harass others online, or just to flirt without commitment. They lure their victims into an online relationship and use it to get money out of them – sometimes thousands of dollars.
Many romance scammers operate outside the United States.
According to Huff Post, most of them are located in Ghana and Nigeria, but an increasing number originate in communities of West African immigrants in Canada, Malaysia, and Britain.
Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported in 2016 on a woman who was sentenced to two years in prison for writing scripts for romance scams, including one in which the scammer claimed to be a widow whose husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Often they’ll start out by asking for a small amount, such as a few extra dollars for a child’s birthday present.
Once they know the victim is hooked, they pretend to go through some kind of crisis that requires a large amount of cash to fix, such as a robbery, a medical or legal problem, a frozen bank account, or a business opportunity.
They can spend months winning over their victims with regular conversations, long e-mails, poetry, gifts, and declarations of love – everything except face-to-face meetings.