The popularity of online dating has caused an increase in dating scams. Perhaps the most known is the Nigerian dating scam. Singles looking for love online should be on the look out for this scam. Nigerian scams are often not easy to detect. Indeed, the Nigerian scam artist is a whole different breed. For one, he (or she) is usually of a higher education level, often a college or university graduate or higher. Secondly, they do their homework. Thirdly, they can be exceptionally patient. Plus, some of them could rival an Oxford English professor in language prowess, especially written language.
The scammer posts a fake profile on a dating site, and often multiple dating sites. Chat rooms and social networking sites are also often targeted, as well as Christian and other religion-based dating sites. Scammers seem to prefer using white people images, apparently cashing in on certain perceptions and stereotypes. The photograph is usually magazine cover quality, and of an exceedingly individual. The photographs are usually stolen from modeling agencies. They also use pictures of foreign models and celebrities not known in the target country. Photographs from other dating profiles have also been known to be used. In a way, the people whose images are used in these scams are victims as well.
Often, scammers prefer to use female photo profiles. Lots of men will respond to an attractive woman’s personal ad, based on a picture alone. This is not to say that women don’ get scammed. They do get scammed, by men or by other women depending on the person’s sexual orientation. In most cases, scammers target older (middle-aged) people seeking long term relationships. At this age the person is likely to be desperate therefore gullible and this age group is likely to be financially stable. Contact is initiated, often but not always, by the scammer.
The stage is set and now begins the grooming phase. The grooming phase is when the relationships and trust are built. The scammer claims to be a business executive or some type of expert from the US, Canada or the UK (or other country) temporarily working for his company in Nigeria or other African country. The fraudster knows all the right things to say and will put you on a pedestal. Before long, you are in the greatest romance journey of your life. Or so you think. Soon he/she declares love. He/she might even send you a few romantic gifts, bought with stolen credit cards. Once a trusting bond has been established, you are ripe for picking. This can take up to twelve months (talk of patience) and often there is promise of marriage. Then the scammer asks for a big favor. The scammer claims that his employer has been paying him in money orders or cashiers checks, which due to differences in banking systems he cannot cash in Nigeria (or other country). The victim is asked to cash the money orders or checks and then wire the money to the scammer via Western Union or Moneygram. He/she might be asked to keep a portion of the money for his/her troubles. This serves a dual purpose: it helps build trust and also turns the victim into a beneficiary and participant in the scam. The money orders or checks will turn out fraudulent. It usually takes most banks anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks to clear a check or money order. The scammer is counting on this, and by the time the con is exposed he/she has disappeared, leaving you to pay the bank and/or even face prosecution for participating in the fraud.
Nigerian dating scam does not always involve money, however. Some scammers are out to use your name and address to ship goods bought with stolen credit cards. The goods are first shipped to you, and then you are asked to reship to the scammers chosen destination which is usually in Nigeria. Though most forms of communication are used, including email, Instant Messaging, and Chat, the scammer will shun live video chat. This is because the photographs used are not real.
The excuse often is lack of the technology in Nigeria. The scammer can usually hire a voice of the right gender, and even accent, for a phone conversation. As a final point, just because it’s called Nigerian romance scam does not necessarily mean it’s done in or out of Nigeria. Due to mistrust of anything involving Nigeria, con artists have started operating from other countries of West Africa such as Ghana and Benin.
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