In 2016, scamming is the hustle emerging as one of the top get-money plays by people all over. However, all fraud grinds don’t involve cracking cards or placing skimmers in a scanner. Some scammers take the psychological approach and make their victims fall in love with them. Daily, on dating sites and social media, predators are seeking out prey to get money or worse. This crime has come to be known as “romance fraud.”
According to the FBI, in the last six months of 2014, victims (82% female and 18% male) lost $82 million due to this “emotion-based crime.” That number has only grown over the years. Romance fraud usually involves a team of scammers, working off of scripts to catfish victims (most of whom see to be lonely, middle-aged and older women). RomanceScams.org details how the fake love affair unfolds:
Scammers send sweet words, poems, and love letters…all stolen from sites on the internet. The people behind these scams are men, women, and teenagers of ALL ages. The male victims, who think they’re talking to a real beauty, may in fact be talking to a male as young as 13 years old.
The pictures are stolen from various sites and previous victims. We have some modeling sites listed. Recently scammers have been using previous victims’ photos from dating and social networking sites.
After a period of “courting,” most scams involve the scammer telling the victim that they’re in some kind of financial bind and need help. Some even go so far as to say that they’ve fallen madly in love with the victim, in attempts to butter them up completely. Should the victim decide that he/she doesn’t want to come up off any more cash, the scammer will turn to blackmail, threatening to send webcam pics to the victims’ job and/or family members if they don’t comply.
Romance fraud doesn’t stop at siphoning money from naive, lovelorn folks. Some victims are coerced into unknowingly participating in illegal activity. We’ve reported on similar stories in the past, where women get talked into unwittingly smuggling drugs on their way to visit their overseas e-boyfriends.
One of the women conned by romance fraud into cocaine trafficking was Sharon Armstrong of New Zealand. “He said the most fabulous things and we began an online relationship in terms of texting, emailing, talking on the phone — we’d talk on the phone every day,” she said. She was taken for $15,000 by the (supposed) man, but that pales in comparison to the years two and a half years she spent in Argetinean prison for attempted smuggling. According to reports:
The man — who was using a stolen identity — told Ms Armstrong he had to move to the UK and five months later asked her to visit him, but to also collect a briefcase of documents on her way, via Argentina.
She was stopped by customs officials at Ezeiza International Airport in Buenos Aires where they found cocaine hidden in the seams of the briefcase.