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SCARS|RSN™ Special Report: The Victim Trap
Scam Victims Believe So Strongly In The Scam That They Are Willing To Go To Africa
Traveling To Meet Your Scammers Can Literally Be A Death Sentence!
Sadly, this is the darkest side of the romance scam addiction – traveling to Africa and losing everything, in some cases even their lives. Also, it tends to affect seniors 10 to 1 more than any other age group.
So many Americans, Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, English, and others live in such a bubble of civilization that they have little actual awareness of how dangerous the world really is. It’s one thing if you are an experienced international business person, or a tourist heading to a resort destination, but something else entirely if you simply go on your own to meet an imaginary person in a country you don’t know. However, scam victims by definition go to visit criminals in the various destination countries believing they are going to see their soul mate.
Countless men and women have traveled to countries in Africa – Ghana, Nigeria, and others – to visit their fake fantasy loves to meet, or to rescue, or to marry them. It sounds like a dream come true, but in fact, in most cases, it is a nightmare.
My Love Come Visit Me
What are the real-world scenarios that befall these victims of delusion when they arrive in countries like Ghana or Nigeria?
Amazingly there are NO GOVERNMENT ESTIMATES of how many victims travel to Africa (or elsewhere) to meet their scammers. SCARS estimates are that as many as 29,000 victims a year engage in travel to meet their online romance scammer.
Scenario One: Nothing Happens
Thousands have traveled every year to the supposed location of their fake romance and have found nothing. After all, they only know what the scammer has told them. Perhaps they sent money via Western Union or MoneyGram which does not provide an address – they can walk into any Ghanaian Western Union but that is not going to get them anywhere. If there was a Bank Wire Transfer then they might visit that bank, but confidential banking information will not be given out. Of course, they may visit the local police and they will be only too happy to help for a small fee. In the end, the victim finds no one, because the scammers do not want the hassles of dealing with a foreigner – these are the more professional gangs or cartels. They let the victim exhaust their time and money, and then go home. Of course, there may be a new story waiting for them when they return asking for more money, sometimes not.
Scenario Two: Pay For Play
Still more victims who travel to their scammer’s location are unable to find them, but local “investigators” are only too happy to track down their love for them. This is another scam that the victim falls for, usually costing a few thousands of dollars overall. The investigator takes the victim on a total tour of “potential” locations for the scammer occupying days in the process, dragging the victim through the worst parts of that country on a “snipe hunt” to find their fake lover. In the end, the victim goes home broke with no clue that they have been played again.
Scenario Three: Gambian Marriage Scam
Hundred of victims each year go to Africa to marry. They made contact online and they head to meet and marry their new love. Most of these are women meeting men, but it happens the other way around too. We have detailed the dangers of this fool’s errand several times, however, it can result in the victim being held in the country forced to provide for the new spouse. The “family” will hold the passport of the victim until there is no money left, or in the case of pension (social security) recipients, they just continue to bleed them month in and month out until they finally get wise and go to their embassy. SCARS is aware of hundreds of these cases, but no real governmental estimates exist since the vast majority of these victims do not talk after they finally get home.
Scenario Four: Kidnapping / Hostages
Throughout the third-world kidnapping of foreign visitors is a constant risk. Our own Chairman avoided kidnapping when traveling in the Philippines twice. It is simply part of the landscape in so many countries, but if you are romance scam victim in denial you are going to literally walk right up to your kidnappers! What could be easier? It is estimated that there are anywhere from a couple of thousand foreigners kidnapped a year to as many as 100,000 per year in places like Africa, the Philippines, Latin America, etc. And the lure of the opposite sex is a primary draw pulling the victim into where the kidnappers want them!
Two South Africans, Held Captive In A Forest Hideout In Nigeria, Freed
Abuja – Two South Africans kidnapped in Nigeria were released on Saturday, police said, in the latest abduction targeting foreigners.
“Police put pressure on the suspected kidnappers using a police helicopter,” police spokesperson Jimoh Moshood said in a statement.
Thomas Arnold Pearce and Hendrik Gideon were seized from a mining site in Maidaro, in Kaduna State, on January 23 and held captive in a forest hideout. Their case was not made public at the time.
It comes a week after two Americans and two Canadians were released after being kidnapped in the same state during a business trip. Two of their police escorts were shot dead in that ambush near Jere, on the road from the town of Kafanchan to the state capital of Abuja.
Kidnapping hot spot
Kidnapping has long been a problem in Nigeria’s southern states, where high-profile individuals, including the families of prominent politicians, are regularly seized. But as the economy has stalled in recent years, the crime began creeping north. A crackdown on cattle rustling has been blamed for rising numbers of abductions in the north, with criminals turning to kidnapping.
The Kaduna-Abuja road is notoriously unsafe. It is an approximately two-and-a-half hour journey by car through villages and past tracts of fields and forests.
Safety on the route came under intense scrutiny last year when the federal government announced the closure of the capital’s only airport for essential runway repairs. Many foreign missions and companies advised staff to limit their travel during the closure period, as all domestic and some international flights were switched to Kaduna.
Kidnapping, like scamming is just another big business in the criminal world in these countries and any victim that believes they can just walk in without serious risk is delusional.
Scenario Five: Mule Flipping
Numerous scam victims have traveled to meet their fake fiancee only to be pulled into doing a favor for the scammers, such as carrying a package or gift to another location. Many scammers are also involved in the drug trade and pull in romance scam victims to be used as drug mules. We have seen countless examples of victims being apprehended by police at the airport carrying the drugs into another country, then convicted for the crime since few of these countries are willing to excuse the smuggling crimes just because the victim was fooled.
Australian Woman Sentenced To Death For Alleged Drug Smuggling In Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — An Australian woman accused of drug trafficking in Malaysia was sentenced to death by hanging after an appeals court on Thursday overturned a lower court’s acquittal, her lawyer said. Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto was exonerated by the High Court last December on grounds that she didn’t know there were 1.5 kilograms of crystal methamphetamine in her bag when she was arrested in December 2014 at Kuala Lumpur’s international airport. The prosecution appealed.
Exposto, a 54-year-old mother of four from Sydney and also a grandmother, had arrived from Shanghai and was to catch a connecting flight to Melbourne when she was detained in Malaysia. The drugs were discovered when she put two bags through the security scanner when exiting the airport.
Exposto had said she went to Shanghai to meet a U.S. serviceman with whom she had an online romance, and had been asked to carry a bag full of clothes. She said she was unaware that the bag also contained drugs.
BBC News reports the judge had called her “naive”, but added that her “feelings of love…[had] overcome everything.”
Exposto’s lawyer, Tania Scivetti, said a three-member appeals court “found there was merit” in the prosecution’s appeal, though it didn’t say on what grounds. She said Exposto was shocked but calm.
“It’s disappointing as there was clear evidence that she was the victim of an Internet romance scam. She was a drug mule,” Scivetti told The Associated Press, adding that they have appealed to Malaysia’s top court.
Malaysia has a mandatory death sentence for anyone found guilty of carrying more than 50 grams of a prohibited drug.
After her acquittal in December, Scivetti said Exposto was immediately arrested by immigration officials as her visa has expired. Following the prosecution’s appeal, she remained in custody because she couldn’t afford to pay bail.
Australian Foreign Minister Julia Bishop said her government was aware of Exposto’s right to appeal.
“Australia opposes the death penalty in all circumstances for all people,” Bishop said in a statement.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries chilled for years after Malaysia hanged two Australians in 1986 for heroin trafficking, a move that then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke denounced as a “barbaric act.”
Despite the backlash, Malaysia hanged another Australian heroin smuggler in 1993. Australia responded with a statement expressing the government’s deep regret and sadness.
Scenario Six: Death
No one knows how many scam victims go to visit their scammers in Africa and elsewhere, and are simply never heard from again. Victims in total denial will not listen to anyone, but never the less the risks are significant.
We only know what is reported to the various embassies, for example in Egypt alone there are 800+ Americans that died of unnatural causes per year as reported to the U.S. Department of State according to Time Magazine.
Here are the statistics that are available for U.S. Citizens only – Reported Number of American Deaths Abroad
Cause of Death: Reported Number of American Deaths Abroad 2015 Traffic accidents 3,104 Homicide 2,000 Suicide 1,461 Drowning 1,320 “Other accidents” 1,294
Obviously, the police forces in these countries are not up to Western standards, so the result is that deaths can be attributed to many different causes without much investigation. It is also important to remember that these numbers are only what was reported to the Department of State, it does not include people that just disappear. How many victims disappear, but because the scammers have full access to the online identity of the victims simply tell the families a story so no one will ever come to investigate?
In 2013 – Woman Believed Victim Of Online Scam Found Dead
Police fear a West Australian woman found dead in South Africa may be the victim of foul play, after she travelled to the country to see a man she met on an online dating service.
The body of 67-year-old Jette Jacobs, from Wagin, south of Perth, was found in a rented villa in Johannesburg on February 9. Her money, credit cards, laptop computer and jewellery were missing.
She had travelled to South Africa to meet Jesse Omokoh, 28, whom she had met online and sent more than $100,000 to in recent years. Mr Omokoh, from Nigeria, had made a proposal of marriage to Ms Jacobs before her trip. Ms Jacobs sent about $20,000 to him shortly before the trip to assist him with travelling to meet her in South Africa.
Police say Mr Omokoh told them he discovered the body and it is too early to say whether she was murdered.
WA’s Fraud Squad say Ms Jacobs’ children tried to talk her out of making the trip and warned her it would be a scam.
Her son, who wants to be identified only as Mr Jacobs, believes his mother was murdered. “We didn’t want her to go, we tried to stop her but she pushed us away and said we didn’t know what we were talking about,” he said. “We didn’t understand he was a true friend and not one of those scams, and she really believed that she had someone that really loved her.”
Ms Jacobs’ husband died in 2002 and her next partner died in 2009. Her son says the family is devastated as his mother was a strong woman and they believe she was taken in. “After losing dad, mum was feeling very lonely so she went online and went to one of the dating sites and this young man contacted her and started to chat to her,” he said. “Mum, not realising what she was getting herself into, started talking to this guy. “This was about four years ago, and in that period of time they’d been chatting quite regularly, then she decided to travel to South Africa to meet him.”
A joint operation between WA Police and Consumer Protection tracks large amounts of money being sent from WA to West African countries.
A letter was sent to Ms Jacobs warning she might be a victim of fraud but it arrived shortly after she had left Australia.
Detective Senior Constable Robert Martin, from the Major Fraud Squad, says the circumstances surrounding Ms Jacobs death are suspicious. “This is a tragic series of consequences of meeting a person online, who isn’t the person you believe they are, and it’s a very common occurrence, alarmingly common occurrence,” he said. “We’re finding that these people in their mid life to older days are falling victims to these overseas criminals who are grooming them over a period of time and then stealing their funds from them.”
Detective Martin says they have saved a couple of other people from making a similar mistake. “Fortunately we were able to get to a couple of other people involved in these romance frauds and they were intending to depart in very similar circumstances to Ms Jacobs, but we were able to get to them before they travelled to South Africa,” he said. “My warning is that unless you have met the person face-to-face you do not know what you are dealing with when you are talking to somebody online. “It is absolutely fraught with danger and we would say don’t send money to anybody that you have met on the computer. “We also strongly urge people not to travel overseas to meet someone they have met on the computer.
“They are organised criminals and the evidence that we’ve gathered to date strongly indicates that the perpetrators are extremely well-organised con men and fraudsters, and we are finding that there’s a network around the world and these people are operating in cooperation with each other.”
Mr Jacobs is also warning others to take heed from what happened to his mother. “Don’t believe you have got someone real on the other end,” he said. “They are professionals, they are really good at what they do. “They will use any approach to try to make you believe that they need help or they need some money; and don’t go to South Africa, it’s very, very dangerous.”
WA police are liaising with South African police to investigate the death.
There can be no denying that traveling to meet a scammer is beyond foolish, it is suicidal. Yet victims so trapped in the illusory relationship believe their fake lovers to be so real that they are willing to go anywhere to meet them.
The tragedy is that their family and friends are fully aware of the risks and in most cases that this is a scam. Yet the victims living in their bubble or denial will not listen to reason.
The victims are adults and in the end, have to be allowed to fail for themselves. It is heartbreaking when the scam turns into something significantly worse, but short of court intervention nothing can be done to stop them.
We sympathize with those who have to watch someone they care for a meltdown in this way. We do offer a special support group for family and friends of scam victims here: www.facebook.com/groups/RSN.Family.Support
For Those Who Are Lost Every Year, We Wish There Was More Than We Could Do
A SCARS Division
Miami Florida U.S.A.
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FAQ: How Do You Properly Report Scammers?
It is essential that law enforcement knows about scams & scammers, even though there is nothing (in most cases) that they can do.
Always report scams involving money lost or where you received money to:
- Local Police – ask them to take an “informational” police report – say you need it for your insurance
- Your National Police or FBI (www.IC3.gov »)
- The SCARS|CDN™ Cybercriminal Data Network – Worldwide Reporting Network HERE » or on www.Anyscam.com »
This helps your government understand the problem, and allows law enforcement to add scammers on watch lists worldwide.
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