WASHINGTON, D.C. – Experts at tugging at the heart strings of the easily-dupable, con-artists in Africa continue to cause unsuspecting, lonely souls to fall in love and open up their pocket books.
An FBI spokeswoman said this week that an increasing number of Americans are becoming victims of romance scams originating from West Africa.
Scammers use legitimate dating websites but fake personas to defraud people looking for love.
“Some victims break the bank for their Internet interest,” the spokeswoman explained.
The crime is categorized as “confidence fraud”.
“A lot of these people just want to take a chance on love. And a lot of the times, unfortunately, they’re just being defrauded,” another FBI associate explained, as the “romance” develops and the fraudster gains the affections of the lonely individual. This confidence eventually leads to the crook seeking wired cash or other financial pay-offs that are many time impossible to recover.
The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3, saw a dollar loss of nearly $200 million from confidence frauds in 2015.
The number of losses between June and December 2015 is more than $27 million higher when compared to the same time the year before.
Te FBI says “You should find it very peculiar, if not disturbing, if someone is asking you for any money within one or two conversations. That should be a red flag.” The fraudster may ask for money to be wired via Western Union, which is very difficult if not impossible to recover once the scam is uncovered.
Many times, the crook will deplete whatever funds the victim will give up… and then vanish.