For decades, many people have fallen for Nigerian scams all across the world. Many people think they haven’t been around that long, but even before the Internet, they would mail out letters to scam their victims. Nowadays, they use social media platforms, dating apps, and emails to get their hands on your hard-earned money so that they can live the lifestyle of their dreams. Some scammers are called romance scammers and will go to the lengths of pretending to fall in love with you in order to scam you out of your hard-earned money.
The History of Romance Scammers
Back before we had the Internet, Nigerian scammers used to send mail out to their victims’ houses in order to scam them out of their hard-earned money. These types of scams were often referred to as Nigerian Prince scams, where a scammer would send a letter claiming that they wanted a business deal or another excuse to their victims in order to steal money from their victims.
These scams have now evolved to the Internet, where scammers use emails, dating apps, social media platforms, and many other social websites to scam their victims out of their hard-earned money. Because of the internet, romance scammers now exist which start with scammers catfishing their victims on dating sites and social media platforms. They then form a romantic relationship with their victims to get them to fall in love with them as fast as possible. Once the victim trusts the romance scammer, they start coming up with excuses as to why they need money until the victim’s bank account is drained.
The Statistics and Roles of Romance Scammers
In 2019, around $201,000,000 was lost in the United States due to romance scams. Out of all the romance scams last year, only 15% were reported while 85% of them remain unreported. It has risen up to 40% since 2018, and with the coronavirus pandemic, the rate of romance scams is only expected to increase.
These scams are set up very similar to a pyramid scheme. There is a guy at the top that is the boss of the romance scam ring. Then, you have his employees with two different roles that scam their victims. These roles consist of the people who find the victims online with catfish profiles, and the people who communicate with these victims as the role of the catfished profile. The boss usually gives his employees a script called the scammer’s playbook in order to lure his victims in.
Next, they go out and usually fool someone into being their money launder. The money launder helps transfer the money from the victim into their account and then transfers it to the scammer’s account, most of the time without even knowing it. This is to prevent the romance scammer from being caught with fraudulent funds.
Finally, you have the victims, which are called “clients” in the romance scamming world. The clients are average citizens who are being scammed out of their money by romance scammers. They usually send their money to the money launders who are disguised as bank representatives or lawyers. Then the money launders send the money over to the romance scammers, aka the boss.
Why Do Romance Scammers Want Your Money?
In Africa, you can live very well off of $1,000 easily for an entire month. Therefore, if romance scammers get just $50- $250 from their victims, that is still a lot of money for them to live comfortably for most of the month. Nigeria is a poor country in Africa, meaning they will do anything they can to scam you out of your money so that they can live a comfortable lifestyle. Many employee scammers use your money so that they can just make a living to support themselves.
However, there are also many bosses of romance scammers that use your money to live the best life possible. They will buy themselves nice cars, fancy clothing, nice jewelry, and live as extravagant of life as they can because they now have the money to do so. The employee romance scammers don’t see them as the bad guy, but instead, see them as successful because they were able to create this business to support their lavish lifestyle.
Who is More Susceptible to Romance Scams?
If you’re divorced, widowed, or depressed, then you are more likely to fall for a romance scam on a social media platform or a dating website. This is because a lot of victims get married to their spouses in their twenties, but thirty years later have to deal with them passing away due to an illness, an accident, or another unfortunate circumstance. Once their spouse is gone, they become lonely since they were used to being around their spouse every day, and want to find a new companion to keep them company. In fact, 43% of the romance scam victims we polled said that loneliness was the number one factor in them being scammed.
When they meet that person on the Internet that gives them attention, they think they finally found the companion that they need. That is why they are so vulnerable in trusting them and providing them with their needs and wants. They fall in love with their romance scammer faster, which makes them also trust faster. This makes it easier for the romance scammer to get their hands on the widow’s money through fake emergencies and excuses.
If you have just lost your spouse or are depressed about a life event going on and you want to find love online, it is best to be wary about the people you are talking to. Don’t form a serious relationship with anyone unless they are willing to video chat with you or meet you in person. Also, don’t give your online lover any money for any reason.
Can You Get Your Money Back if You Were a Part of a Romance Scam?
There is a small possibility that you can get your money back if you were involved in a romance scam. There are a lot of people that don’t even try because they believe once they give their money away, there is no hope of getting it back. However, if victims are diligent and at least try to report the scam they were in, there is a small possibility they can get their money back.
How Do You Report the Romance Scam If You Are a Victim?
You can report the romance scam in many different ways. The first way you can report the romance scam is by going to your local police and seeing if they can track down the romance scammer. Next, you can report the crime to the IC3 (Internet Crime Center) and the FBI to see if they can assist you in getting your money back.
If you have wired funds through your bank, you can even try reporting the scam through your bank to see if there is anything they can do. If you gave them a gift card or Bitcoin, you can contact these companies with your police report to prove to them that you have been scammed, and sometimes they can track your money down and give it back to you.
Don’t be too embarrassed or ashamed to report the scam you were in. Sometimes, the scammers can leave footprints that will lead someone to find your money and give it back to you. It doesn’t happen all the time, but if you at least try and get your money back you never know what might happen. Plus, it will put your case on the FBI’s radar so that if someone is going through a similar situation as you, then there’s more opportunity for the scammer behind it to get caught.
How to Avoid Romance Scams
- Don’t give money to someone on the Internet that you’ve never met in person.
- Don’t give out your personal information to someone that you are talking to online.
- If someone is moving the relationship super fast, be cautious by slowing the relationship down.
- Don’t get too serious with someone without at least video chatting with them or meeting them in person first.
- If they have a job overseas, this is a huge red flag that they might be a romance scammer since they usually use this as an excuse to not see you or video chat with you.
- If someone is randomly contacting you out-of-the-blue on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter this usually means they are a romance scammer.
- Report any scam that you’ve been a part of to the FTC, IC3, and FBI.
Social Catfish is Here to Help You with Romance Scams!
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 if you think you’ve been a victim of romance scams.