Internet savvy people are well aware of the online Nigerian scams. They are of various kinds, the 419 scam, where they offer to transfer a lot of money into your bank account, or the lottery scam, where they tell you that you’ve won something in some phony lottery etc. But in a dating scam (also known as romance scam), besides just asking for money the scammers build a bogus persona complete with an attractive image to trap unsuspecting victims.
They pretend to be well to do expats working in Nigeria or Ghana (usually residents of US and UK ). Recently scams have come to light that have originated in Malaysia, China, India, Turkey, Spain, Cyprus, Egypt, as that’s where popularly Nigerians are located as they can easily get visas for these countries.
Men usually claim to be widowed engineers, navy men, building contractors, military personnel, veterinary doctors, surgeons etc. Women pretend to be nurses, models, associated with NGO or UNICEF; basically of professions that will have a plausible reason for them to be present in the country of the scam’s origin.
Online romance scams remain as a piece of information to us when we read it in Newspapers or online but when one of your own becomes a target you understand how real this situation is. Today I am collaborating with a close friend to know more about her experience dealing with such an incident. As requested, I will not be disclosing her name. She was smart enough to have not fallen prey to it but not everyone is so lucky. There are many women and men who have lost a lot of money, time and emotions due to such scams. So I am hoping this post will prove to be informative and helpful to folks in similar circumstances.
Q: How did you come across this scammer?
A: At that time of my life the whole universe including my parents and relatives had one and only agenda, which was to get me married. I had already crossed “that” age when an Indian girl was supposed to be married and my parents worried endlessly and wondered as to what was wrong in my life and why I was not able to land a husband. Their worrying made me worry and so I went through the torture of browsing matrimony websites and interacting with potential matches online. On one very popular matrimony website – Shadi.com, I stumbled upon this scammer. Never expected them to be hanging out on matrimony portals but now looking back it seems like the best place for a scammer, since such sites are full of hopeful and vulnerable men, women and their parents.
Q: Can you talk about his behavior and modus operandi ?
A: The scammer who contacted me on Shaadi.com said he was a pilot for British Airways. He gave an original flight number and said he flies from the UK to Delhi and back. He would call exactly as per this schedule and gave me all the exact details that I asked for.He spoke in a calm neutral manner which is usually the case with most matches that communicate via matrimony sites. He had a genuine UK accent too! Initially he used a UK phone number to call me and later on started calling via internet. For me it was already weird as to why a foreigner would contact me on Shaadi.com but that doubt was cleared when he mentioned that one of his parents was of Indian origin. So that was a convenient front for him to be OK with the whole cultural difference. He said his name was Captain Mark Sanjay Ram Campbell!
Q: What in particular made you suspicious?
A: Firstly, his name Mark Sanjay Ram Campbell! You see the name was quite poorly formed in the first place. The second and definite point of suspicion was the contents of his first email. Three long paragraphs which were excerpts from poems mixed with sappy romantic lines and a forced use of unconventional english vocabulary. It almost seemed like he was finding fancy words using the thesaurus. I could make out that the poem and quotes weren’t original and it just did not sound right that someone who claims to be so well-educated would resort to such tactics.Overcome by curiosity I copied a few lines and looked them up online to find who the author of that specific quote /poem was. The moment I hit search it showed me results from numerous forums where folks had reported about such scams. I went through pages and pages and was really amazed to see the level of scamming that goes on.
Q: How long did your interaction with the scammer last? Did it take an emotional toll on you?
A: It lasted nine days that included phone calls and email going back and forth. After the first email itself I was armed with enough information about how such people gain your confidence and then dupe you off your money. And obviously no one would suspect them because when a well-educated and affluent individual has a financial issue, it is most often genuine, right? That is the whole catch, they find your vulnerability, gain your complete confidence, fill you with so much hope and positivity that this long distance sham looks way much better than the real relationships you have with your family, friends and colleagues.
After my extensive research I was ready to scam back. Every call every email I would say and write how much my family was dependent on me financially, to make sure this person understood that I had no money to give away. And all it took was nine days for this person to fade away silently. When the emails stopped coming, I reported him at Shaadi.com with snapshots of his emails, phone number, and web links to information related to such scams.I talked at length with a Shaadi.com associate and that profile was blocked.
I have not been affected by this incident as of such, what I felt was amazement and shock. I can’t begin to imagine how people cope up with such a situation when they become emotionally involved.
Q: What advice do you have for folks in similar situations?
Q: Closing Thoughts?
A: You need to give yourself the highest priority in your life. You may or may not find love, marriages may or may not work out but in spite of this its important to have a strong sense of self. Talk openly with people whom you trust and always look for more than one view-point on relationships. Be practical, by no means a cynic or a pessimist, but being practical is important. Indulge in hobbies and be passionate about it, trust me this is extremely important. If you crave for companionship and are not successful in getting dates or getting married and on top of that being introverted makes things difficult. Go and help out at orphanages and old age homes, this gives a sense of emotional fulfillment and a feeling of being needed. Children do not discriminate and old people have a lot of experience with life, the best two kinds of people to be with. And last but not the least be aware and Google stuff…it helps 🙂