West African/Nigerian Marriage Scams

(Last Updated On: January 29, 2023)

West African/Nigerian Marriage Scams

Also Known As Gambia Scams Turn Victims Into Hostages

How Scams Work/Other Kinds Of Scams & Fraud – A SCARS Insight

Marriage Scams – We Have Said It 10,000 Times – Do Not Travel To West Africa!

Yet Victims Become Manipulated To Abandon Their Homes And Families And Go To West Africa To Marry Someone They Have Never Met

This is how Marriage Scams happen! Did this happen to you?

It Is Estimated That As Many as 1,500 victims a Month Travel to Nigeria Alone!

They go there with visions of “Happily Even After” and somehow their Nigerian Husband is going to treat them like they have never been treated before. This is the starting point for these marriage scams.

Ironically, they are right! They will be defrauded, stripped of their rights, help hostage, and in the case of as many as 100 a month killed. Not exactly a Happy Ending.

How Does These Marriage Scams Work?

We all know the story. You are contacted by a stranger online, through a dating website or through social media. These scammers often tend to use real photos and real names, so it is not an obvious scam or fake.

The victim believes they are firmly in love with the younger handsome stranger from Africa. The relationship will progress over several months of grooming and manipulation, usually resulting in the total alienation of family and friends – they simply could never understand.

These marriage scammers are typically looking for women who have large savings or who own a house. If the victim owns their house, they usually sell it before traveling to Africa – why would they need it, they are going to be happy there, right?

She arrives and meets her Prince Charming, and everything is wonderful.

They meet the family, where they are going to live is not really adequate, but from the money that she has, they will buy a new house and he will set up a new business. Everything will be great! After all, she has sold her house or cashed out her retirement account.

Then The Marriage Is Arranged

Usually, everything is great until the day of the marriage. This is where the truth about marriage scams begins to appear.

Depending on the intention of the criminal, it will typically go one of two ways.

  1. The bride gets “cold feet” and decides to wait or withdraw
  2. Or decides to go forward

Everything depends on the victim’s money – if she still has things to do back at home to free it up, then the ceremony happen completely normally, like any happy couple, so she can return home and finish the transactions. In these cases, the victim travels back to Europe or North America and finishes off the final sale and banking, then returns to Africa.

If the victim has all of her money in her bank accounts ready to access, then the marriage will proceed at speed.

If the victim has had hesitation and perhaps wants to wait, then drugs are used to induce her to go through with the marriage. This is what we saw in the case of Diane Webb. When they go to the courthouse for the license and the marriage, the officials are paid off and do not care. Everything happens as scripted.

The Next Step In These Marriage Scams

This is where it gets nasty. The victim – now wife finds out that things were not quite as planned.

The first step is for the new husband to seize her passport, money, travel tickets – virtually everything she has. Often even her clothing. She will be kept a prisoner by the criminal and his family – yes, they willingly play a role in keeping the woman captive. The conditions will, in part, depend on how valuable the woman is after she arrives. It also depends on how often the criminal has and is going to be doing this.

Some victims are kept in the home with the scammer’s family who will abuse her psychologically and many times physically. She will be denied access to family – which she systematically pushed away while she was being manipulated before traveling. She will not have access to her money or any necessities. In some cases, like with Diane Webb, she will be held chained in a shed or warehouse.

Victims are held in these conditions until every penny can be extracted from her by the criminals.

The Last/Final Step

With these marriage scams, the victims can be held and abused for months until the criminal has all of her money. But then it depends on the kind of person he is. Some will let the victim go – with or without a passport and ticket because they know she can go to her country’s embassy for help. But some will never be seen again.

It is estimated that as many as 100 Americans disappear each month in Nigeria alone. In rural countries, it is easy to dispose of bodies. How many of them were in this situation is impossible to know. How many are from other countries is also not known.

But the fact remains the people go into West Africa and are never seen again!

Gender & Race

Notice that throughout this article about West African Marriage Scams we have assumed that the victim is a woman and the criminal is a man.

In our experience, most often the woman is White and the criminal is black, but not always. We believe that part of the reason for this is prestige – the scammer gains prestige in their community with such a marriage, also strangely it does not attract attention from the local authorities. It may be a calculation also, that white women will be less aware of African culture and less prepared for the cultural differences, making it easier to fall for the grooming, manipulation, and control.

In most of West Africa the law support men having complete financial control, and in Muslin regions absolute control over women. A man traveling to meet a wife in West Africa would not have the same restrictions. Thus even the law supports the rights of the criminal husband after marriage.


We have heard countless stories from families and friends about people they knew and loved who gave up everything and traveled to West Africa, were trapped into these marriage scams, many never to be heard from again. Those who were able to return faced great difficulties just getting out of the country. In some cases they had criminal charges filed against them by their criminal husband, in other cases, they were just abandoned in the street to make their own way.

But we have also seen cases where the women were so physically abused that they died from the experience.

After they make it home – those that survive this experience – they will find a completely different set of challenges, especially from law enforcement. This is not a traditional financial fraud or scam, it is a marriage and with it comes all of the entanglements that come with that. While clearly there is abuse, their local police can do nothing other than take the report, since it all took place in another country and the perpetrator is not there in their jurisdiction. In fact, the police often will not even afford these victims the same protections as battered wives. But that police report is important since it enables local benefits that the victim may need.

What is worse is that it may very well be a legally binding marriage. This means the criminal might be entitled to residency in the victim’s country, and in divorce to alimony!

What To Do?

If a victim finds themself in this situation, SCARS is here to help. We have special support groups for these victims with others that have been through similar experiences.

However, the most important things to do are:

  1. Find a trauma counselor or therapist – you will be traumatized!
  2. Find a divorce attorney to explore to the victim their rights and how to end the marriage quickly. They can also advise on other actions they can take
  3. Report the crime – local police, FBI (even though they will do nothing), and most importantly to the Immigration service as marriage fraud

Trauma counseling or therapy will help to overcome the experience and the trauma that was accumulated. This is important and should never be ignored – trauma does not simply go away!

Reporting to the local police is important since it can open doors for local support for abused women. Every victim should also take out a restriction order against the criminal just in case. The FBI will be useless, but at least it is on file.

Reporting the criminal to the Immigration Service is important because the victim will want to prevent him from getting a visa as their husband and immigrating to their country as is his potential right after the marriage. In the U.S. report these here: https://www.uscis.gov/report-fraud/uscis-tip-form  This should help prevent obtaining a visa and entry into the country.


This is one of the worst types of relationship scams and the victim need help to overcome and recover from them. If they have been held hostage, friends and family can be supportive, but a trauma counselor or therapist will be essential. Click here to find resources to help.

Just know that it is not their fault. Like all relationship victims, they were expertly lured in, groomed, manipulated, and controlled until the point where the criminal got what they want.

But know that this is NOT a romance scam, it is a different kind of crime, that requires different kinds of support and a different recovery process.

SCARS is here to help these victims. To join our Marriage Scam support group visit http://support.AgainstScams.org to sign up.


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