If there’s ever been a time where someone that you’ve been dating online sends you money to send to someone else, then you might want to keep reading this article. This is usually a sign that you’ve been a victim of a romance scam as well as money laundering. Money laundering is the act of receiving fraudulent money from someone and sending it to someone else in order to prevent tying the scammer to these funds. This “cleans” the money of fraudulent activity, hence the name “laundering.” However, scammers will come up with excuses as to why they need to send the money to you to send to someone else so that it doesn’t seem like it’s money laundering. The act of money laundering is illegal, so it is important to keep reading this article if you want to know whether or not you are money laundering without even knowing it as well as how to avoid money laundering.
The Money Laundering Scam is On the Rise Due to The Pandemic
Since many people are receiving unemployment benefits under the CARES Act due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are trying to figure how to get their hands on all this unemployment money. According to a recent study we did and Axios, we estimate that 50% of unemployment claims totaling $400 billion have been paid to romance scammers. Since this money comes from the government, many scammers are looking for ways to make sure they aren’t caught with fraudulent funds so they can get it out of the country.
To avoid getting caught, the scammer asks one of their victims to send the money to another one of their victims in a form of money laundering. They come up with an excuse claiming that they have an emergency and need to get money from their loved one. They also create an excuse as to why this family member can’t get the money themselves. The victim then sends another victim the money to give to the scammer. The victim receiving the money has no idea they are money laundering and thinks they are helping out the scammer’s loved one. The victim sending the other victim the money thinks they are giving the scammer’s loved one money for help.
Why Do Romance Scammers Trick Victims Into Money Laundering?
Romance scammers want to receive money from their victims without the chance of being caught, so they trick their victims into sending money to their other victims. They don’t want to risk getting in trouble and revealing their identity to law enforcement.
They also don’t want there to be a chance for victims to get their money back if they decide to file a police report, so they mask their money in order to ensure that victims can’t get their money back. If the money is sent to someone else, then scammers can take it out of the other person’s account, leaving no money to give back to the victim who reported the scam.
Social Catfish Strives to Help Money Laundering Victims
Shellie is a woman we interviewed who revealed she was dating three different men online. She was suspicious about the three men being scammers and we stepped in to verify their identities. While talking to one of the men claiming to be named Robert, she received several envelopes of cash from a third party. She would buy gift cards and Bitcoin with this cash then send this currency back to Robert. She met these men on Zoosk and Facebook dating, and we ended up tracking one of them to Lagos, Nigeria. We found that all three of the profiles were romance scammers using our tools on SocialCatfish.com.
Our search specialist Linnie confirmed that Robert was using Shellie for money laundering. This means that he told one victim to send him money through Shellie, claiming that she was related to him. Then once Shellie got the money, she was instructed to convert it into Bitcoin to make it easier to send back to the scammer. However, the real reason why he wanted the money in Bitcoin was to make the purchase untraceable and make it impossible for Shellie to get her money back.
Click here to read more about her story.
We interviewed a woman named Tawnya from West Virginia. She was dating a man online who claimed his name is Nicholas Coomer. Tawnya and Nicholas met on the dating app Tinder. Unlike some of our other episode’s Nicholas isn’t asking Tawnya for money, he is actually sending it to her. We investigated the identity of the man to figure out if he is a romance scammer and reached out to Tawnya about what we have found.
Nicholas instructed her to take the money that he sent to her and to convert it into Bitcoin. He claimed that converting it into Bitcoin was the only way to purchase the construction equipment that he so desperately needed. However, he claimed that he couldn’t get Bitcoin where he was, so he asked Tawnya for help. While Tawnya thought that she was only helping him purchase construction equipment, she was actually helping him with money laundering without knowing it.
Click here to read more about her story.
How to Avoid Money Laundering with Romance Scams
It is important to keep these tips in mind since money laundering is illegal. There are people who have gone to jail for money laundering, so you need to be careful who you send money to or receive money from.
With this in mind, please make sure to keep these tips in mind when online dating:
- Don’t receive money from someone that you met on the Internet.
- Don’t give anyone you met online your personal or financial information.
- If someone online tells you they need help converting money into Bitcoin or gift cards, DO NOT help them!
- Don’t send anyone you don’t know Bitcoin, gift cards, wire transfers, or money of any form.
- Don’t form a relationship with someone unless you video chat with them or meet them in person.
- Be wary if someone tries to move the relationship way too fast.
- Be wary if someone tells you that their career is overseas.
- Report any scam that you’ve been a part of to the FTC or IC3.
Social Catfish is Here to Help You!
At Social Catfish, we want to help you verify the identities of those who might seem suspicious to you. If you have their name, email address, phone number, social media username, or image, you can reverse search and see who the suspected person was that you’ve been in contact with after reading these signs of an Instagram romance scammer. Also, make sure to report any scam that you have been a victim of to the FTC. They will provide you with excellent resources that will help you recover financially and emotionally.