(Last Updated On: July 11, 2021)

The Refugee Romance Scam

How Scams Work

A SCARS Series

No Situation Is Safe From Scams – Syria & Other Refugees Are No Exception

In a classic case of “social engineering” scammers are using the Syrian refugee crisis to scam people out of money and information.

Whenever a humanitarian crisis hits, scammers will set up fake websites, send phishing emails, and use social media such as Facebook to encourage people to donate money or see the latest news on the crises of the moment. This even includes romance scams between “refugees” and men and women outside in the rest of the world.

Most of the websites or emails are fake. Some are phishing scams where you will be providing your personal information, or allow malware to be injected into your device. Social media sites are ripe for scammers because we are a society of “clickers.” We love to connect or to donate money. When there is a humanitarian crisis, many of us want to help.

Romance Scams

However, there is a more insidious use of these refugee crises and that is romance scams.

Fake refugees fill dating websites, especially Muslim or Middle Eastern-oriented dating sites. It is the same manipulation – a relationship begins with someone in a difficult situation who wants a normal life with you. They need your help to get out of their situation (whatever that is). They need money! Urgently need money!

Here are a few of their urgent needs:

  • Need to buy safety in the camps
  • Need food and supplies
  • Need (better) shelter
  • Need passports
  • Need legal fees
  • Need transportation
  • Need healthcare

The trick is that these are all reasonable needs that any refugee would need. But in the case of fake refugees, it will only go into the pockets of scammers. What is worse, these are typically Iranian state scammers or terrorists raising money for the next plot!

The Typical Scenario Goes Like This:

  1. You meet a wonderful woman (typically these target men) on a specialized dating website – though it could be on any dating website or on social media.
  2. You develop a rapport and a relationship starts. You decide that she is perfect for you and she wants to come and live with you.
  3. But to begin with, she needs a passport or other papers. There are always problems getting them – so you need to send money to a nearby country (Turkey, Dubai, Qatar, Jordan, etc.).
  4. You need to pay lawyers, government officials, and more and it sounds reasonable, especially if you have never been involved in something like this before. But it is all fake!

This can last for months or even years! Scammers are very good at maintaining control over victims to draw the scam out as long as possible.

In the end, you will lose your money and have nothing to show for it.

More Migration Scams

Always beware of fraudulent offers of migration assistance on the internet or email marketing. Many scams target the migrating individual or refugee directly too!

Individuals considering migrating – for whatever purpose or to whatever destination – should take extreme caution in dealing with internet offers or email marketing in light of the recent surge in fraudulent schemes.

These schemes seek to extract money from migrants by claiming their program is under the auspices of the destination country, lawyers’ associations, IOM, the United Nations, or other NGO  humanitarian organizations.

IOM (the UN’s International Organization for Migration) issues warnings in response to several email requests and queries from various sources asking for financial support of migrants.

Everyone must be alert of how scammers work such as the use of stolen photos of people copied and pasted from the internet or the unauthorized use of names and logos of IOM itself, various UN agencies, or NGOs (Nongovernmental Organizations).

These fraudulent schemes falsely promise visa facilitation and transportation assistance, resettlement opportunities as well as job openings and recruitment abroad. Be extremely wary of any such offers, particularly where money is requested to be sent in advance.

Some of the scams of which we know of are using the following names or close variations thereof:

  • Australian Immigrant Workers Recruitment / Resettlement Program (AIWR/RP)
  • Canadian Alien Workers Recruitment Agency (CAWRA)
  • Canadian Foreign Worker’s Recruitment Program Association (CFWRPA)
  • Canadian International Recruitment Centre (CIRC)
  • Canadian International Worker’s Recruitment Association (CIWRA)
  • Canada Recruitment International Centre (CRIC)
  • Canadian Resettlement Agency (CRA)
  • Canadian Workers Recruitment Program (CWRP)
  • Global Committee on Refugee and Humanitarian Agencies (GCRHA)
  • Global Intercontinental Exchange Programme (GIEP)
  • Global Refugee and Humanitarian Agency (GRHA)
  • Global Recruitment and Resettlement Agency (GRRAOHA)
  • International Foreign Workers Recruitment Program Association Canada (IFWRAC, IWRAC or IFWRPA)
  • North America Foreign Worker’s Recruitment Program Association (NAFWRPA)
  • Social Welfare Employment and Recruitment Agency (SWERA)
  • United States / Canada Recruitment and Resettlement Agency (USCRARA)
  • United States Foreign Workers Recruitment Program (USFWRP)
  • Universal Network for Humanitarian and Rehabilitation Foundations (UNHRF)
  • Universal Programme for Humanitarian Employment and Resettlement Agencies (UPHERA)
  • Universal Network for Humanitarian Employment Opportunities (UNHEO)
  • US Workers Resettlement and Recruitment Program (USWRRP)
  • US Workers Recruitment Program (USWRP)
  • World Refugees Assemblies of Humanitarian Agencies (WRAHA)

Always find the official contact information for any entity or NGO to verify the information, and we suggest contacting IOM to verify if the entity is real – you can find IOM information at https://www.iom.int/

Even If …

Even if everything is real. You have verified the person, the agencies, the costs, and it is all legit – it could still be a scam!

Immigration fraud to rampant. Everyday real people connect with citizens and residents in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, and Europe to obtain help to enter or immigrate to that country or region. This is especially true of women or men that you find online.

Just like in a romance scam, you meet online, develop a relationship, and then plan on them relocating to where you are. Except that this time it is all real – real person, real plans, real process. There is just one little problem – they only want you for immigration and residency.

This type of immigration fraud is everywhere. People meet, get married, and as soon as the residency is permanent they are gone – divorce, heartache, and all for nothing. Even worse, in most countries when the immigrant divorces you, you end up paying them support too, and giving them half of your property – and it was all a scam.

If you meet someone online, make sure you developed a real relationship over time. Only trust what you see with your own eyes. Avoid getting married overseas, wait until they have arrived then take the time to make sure before you decide.

To Really Help Refugees

If you meet someone online and want to help them, only work through a real NGO or nonprofit. Contact the NGO’s headquarters about helping a specific individual – they know how it is done, what payments and assistance will be required. Most of the time they will handle everything or direct you to reliable partners. Tell your connection that you will handle everything yourself – if they object you know it is a scam.

To donate and support refugees send your contribution to reliable global NGOs – never send it to entities suggested by someone you met online. Even if they send you to a website that looks real it is probably not. Do your own research.

Always Report All Scams – Anywhere In The World To:

Go to reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn how

U.S. FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/?orgcode=SCARS and SCARS at www.Anyscams.com
Visit reporting.AgainstScams.org to learn more!