Scam Victims Send Money To Scammers!
But Sometimes Scammers Keep The Money In The Victim’s Name!
There is a practice that has been going on for at least a decade in several African countries, and in Asia and the Middle East too!
A scam victim wants to send a sizable amount of money to a scammer. The only practical way to do this is via bank wire transfer (through the SWIFT system).
So the scammer, anticipating the receipt of the money works with one of their local corrupt bankers to open an account in the victim’s name. This is not hard since the scammers usually have local bankers in their pockets, and the victims usually supply enough information to enable this – such as passport information.
The corrupt banker opens the account in the victim’s name. This helps the scammer hide from their local governments and avoid seizures or taxes in their income. After all the money is in the name of the victim – though because the account was set up by the scammer and the corrupt banker, the scammer has full access to the money.
Once set up, the victim sends their money that goes into this account – secretly in their name. But the scammer can also use this account to receive even more money from many other victims. In fact, this type of account can be used to receive money from thousands of victims. When the money hits the account it can be forwarded to another “safe” account somewhere else, such as in Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, etc. From the perspective of these transactions, it appears that it is all done by the victim whose name is on the first account.
Eventually, governments find these accounts and identify the original victim as an accessory in the money laundering chain. Of course, sometimes the banker is also identified and arrested. But for the original victim, they are now international money launderers and subject to arrest and in rare cases extradition to the country in question – if there are agreements between the victim’s home country and where the scammer set up the account. Even without that, the victim’s name goes on international money laundering watch lists around the world.
The Victim Is Double Victimized
What few victims pay any attention to is how scammers may be using their identities.
For example, scammers often have enough information to request a replacement passport from the victim’s country’s embassy. Or obtain credit cards internationally. Or sign the victim up to be responsible for international loans.
Victim’s names can be used on illicit shipments of products, from knock-off fake goods, to weapons, to drugs. These shipments can go to third-party countries or to the victim’s own country.
Scammers are part of global organized crime networks and identities have high value for the things that can be done with them to hide the identity of the real criminals. Victims would be completely unaware of these activities until someone shows up at their down to arrest them, or they travel to an affected country and are arrested at the point of entry.
When Victims Do Not Report Their Scam
The problem is that when victims do not report their scam, in effect, they have no proof that the scam occurred. At least proof that would be legally acceptable in all cases.
The importance of reporting the crime, starting with the local police and then with the national police (FBI, NBI, RCMP, ActionFraud, Europol, etc.) is that it establishes that a crime did happen and that the victim is the victim of that crime. This is kind of like reporting that your car is stolen, and then finding out it was used in a bank robbery – because you reported it, it becomes clear you are not involved. This is a “get out of jail free card.” It establishes that whatever happens afterward or by the scammer, you are not held responsible or at least have proof that you are the victim of a crime.
Most Victims Provide Enough Information
It really does not matter the type of the scam. They can be romance, lotto, government impersonation phone scams, tech support scams, or others.
Sadly, most victims provide more than enough information for scammers to use their identities and a multitude of ways for their criminal purposes.
- Normal identity theft: bank accounts, credit cards, loans, and more
- Money laundering: money transfers, conversion to bitcoin, cashier’s checks, certificates, stocks, bonds, and more
- Customs transactions: movement of goods across borders – illicit or legitimate items
- Commodity purchases: petroleum products, agricultural goods, etc.
- Fake vehicle registrations: cars, boats, planes, more
- Real replacement documents: vehicle titles, home titles, ID cards, passports, etc.
- Tax return fraud: obtaining the victim’s tax refunds
- Unemployment & benefits fraud: filing for unemployment claims or other government benefits using the victim’s name
- Insurance beneficiary: scammers also change the beneficiaries on life and other types of insurance
These are but a few of the ways scammers can use the victim’s name and identity, both internationally and in the victim’s own country. If there is a way, the scammers will find a way to do it. If not the scammer that the victim had contact with, then by other criminals that the scammer sold the information to.
After The Scam Check Everything
After you have been scammed you need to go systematically through all of your possible weak points.
Start with the information you know you gave to the scammer: passports, driver’s licenses, social security, etc. With your police report number in hand, contact the agencies and request new identification documents and numbers. In most countries, with proof of reporting an identity theft, you can obtain new documents at little or no cost.
Don’t forget to contact all of your financial institutions and change your accounts. Be sure to alert banks, credit cards, and credit bureaus.
Most victims completely overlook these processes and as a result, end up having their identities stolen.
In the U.S. fully 50% of the residents are at risk right now. Similar numbers for the U.K. and Europe. This is why reporting to the police is a requirement not an option!
If you never sent money, or never gave the scammer any information you still need to be alert to the possibility of these events. Scammers can harvest vast amounts of information from social media profiles. In many cases, they can find enough information that victims publish about themselves to be able to steal or use their identity.
You may not want to report to the police. You may feel ashamed, embarrassed, guilty. You may not want anyone to find out. But a small amount of discomfort and effort now can help you avoid massive problems and legal responsibility later on.
So what are you going to do?
You can remain in denial or angry and avoid doing what you need to do or you can report the crime.
Even if you did not lose money you should still report it. Many communities, states or provinces, and national police allow for online reporting. Always report locally first and get a report or record number that you can keep in your crime record organizer (such as the SCARS RED BOOK available here).
You have the choice to set the stage for your own protection in the future, or you can avoid the whole issue and roll the dice to see what happens.
Just remember, scammers are professionals and they will not leave money on the table. If they can exploit your identity, they will. Period!