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This Is What It Feels Like To Be The Victim Of An International Romance ScamScam A Scam is a confidence trick - a crime -  is an attempt to defraud a person or group after first gaining their trust through deception. Scams or confidence tricks exploit victims using their credulity, naïveté, compassion, vanity, irresponsibility, or greed and exploiting that. Researchers have defined confidence tricks as "a distinctive species of fraudulent conduct ... intending to further voluntary exchanges that are not mutually beneficial", as they "benefit con operators ('con men' - criminals) at the expense of their victims (the 'marks')". A scam is a crime even if no money was lost.

BuzzFeed News spoke to women who fell for men that turned out to be elaborate fake identities created by fraudsters.

Includes an interview with SCARSSCARS SCARS - Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. A government registered crime victims' assistance & crime prevention nonprofit organization based in Miami, Florida, U.S.A. SCARS supports the victims of scams worldwide and through its partners in more than 60 countries around the world. Incorporated in 2015, its team has 30 years of continuous experience educating and supporting scam victims. Visit to learn more about SCARS.’ Chairman Dr. Tim McGuinness

By Patrick Smith, BuzzFeed News Reporter – Posted on November 12, 2016, at 3:52 a.m.
Preprinted to preserve this article for SCARS’ History Archives – Copyright Acknowledged

Mary can’t stand Kanye West.

Her Facebook friends know as much – she just finds him too full of himself.

“Kanye said he was stronger than the guys in the military or something, and I put something on Facebook saying they should put him through Navy Seals training and see how fast he gets his ass out of there,” she said.

Now in her 70s, Mary – her name has been changed at her request – finds Facebook a way to keep in touch with her friends and four grown-up children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

After two failed marriages – she says her second husband was abusive – she now lives alone with a loaded gun beside her bed and practises martial arts in her spare time. She is a tough, uncompromising character with a wicked sense of humour.

On 3 January, someone Mary hadn’t seen before commented on her Facebook status about Kanye. Christoph, a silver-haired, handsome, middle-aged man with a kind smile, posted that he liked her Facebook comment. She said: “Thank you.”

“Then I went to his Facebook page, which I do sometimes when people comment, to see he wasn’t a nut,” she said, speaking on the phone late one night from her home in Southern California.

“I left a comment saying he was a handsome guy. And after that we just started talking – basic things like where he lived and what he did, that kind of stuff.

“He was just a really sweet guy. I don’t know, I just thought… I don’t know what I thought. I’ve never done anything like this before. I can’t even tell my kids – my son would kill me.”

They began chatting every day via Facebook Messenger. The conversation was casual, just typical Facebook chat. Mary thought Christoph was good-looking and polite, although he made a few unusual grammatical errors and displayed a few more gaps in his US cultural knowledge than a successful businessman from Pennsylvania really should.

He even sent a video, apparently from a hotel room. “Hey you,” he said, staring straight into a shaky desktop camera. “I just wanted you to know that I’m thinking about you, I love you, and I hope you had a great day.”

The man in the video never says anyone’s name. Thousands of people have received that same video thinking it was for them. Mary would never have imagined it at the time, but the man she thought was Christoph doesn’t exist. The man in the video is the victim of computer hacking and identify theft. She is the victim of a romance scam.

The scammerScammer A Scammer or Fraudster is someone that engages in deception to obtain money or achieve another objective. They are criminals that attempt to deceive a victim into sending more or performing some other activity that benefits the scammer. had fooled Mary into thinking he was a real man who was interested in her. It worked. She said she feels foolish now, but at the time Christoph’s flattery, poetry, and charm were all too real.

After a couple of weeks Christoph said he was due to travel to Nigeria for a freelance job worth $2.3 million. He offered to travel to California to see Mary just before he made his way to Africa – it was a bizarre plan given the distances involved and the fact that he would be on the West Coast only for a few hours, but he said he was still keen to see her. But he never turned up, claiming that his son was ill and needed hospital treatment.

Then, he made his first request for money.

“When he was in West Africa he said he was having problems because his debit card wouldn’t work. And I remember thinking, y’know, You’re supposed to be a big businessman, you’re at the Hilton hotel, and I’m sure you’re not the only businessman there, so why doesn’t your card work?

“And then he was telling me all these sob stories; it was another one every single day. He needed money to help pay his hotel bill because it was $500 a week – he didn’t know what he was gonna do because he couldn’t pay, and I told him, ‘I don’t have that kind of money! What do you think I am? You know how much money I make at my job.’”