Internet dating sites are fast becoming even bigger targets for scams and fraud. The schemers play to the emotions of people looking to make meaningful connections and prey on those viewed as being vulnerable. The FBI maintains an ongoing list of the most common fraudulent activities that people can and should watch out for. It is especially important to educate yourself if you are participating in online activities that are more susceptible, such as using dating sites, social media or various chat rooms. Anyone on the internet can be a potential target, so always be cautious with your interactions. And never send money to or provide someone with detailed personal information. Let’s discuss some concerning scams that originated in the West African Nations of Ghana and Nigeria, and some ways to avoid becoming a victim.
It can’t happen to me, because I’m too smart
Wrong answer! Investigators emphasize that even doctors, lawyers and police officers fall victims to Nigerian and Ghana scams. Internet criminals are becoming far more sophisticated compared to the old days of spam emails from the Nigerian prince! Today’s criminals operating out of West Africa may never mention the word Nigeria or Ghana, and in fact, they may call you from a local number in the U.K. or U.S., and claim to be someone who actually exists. This way, when you do your “detective” work and search the web for more information, you’ll think you’ve verified the person because you’ve found a matching Linkedin and Facebook account. These days you’ll need some help verifying who is actually real.
I check IP addresses so I know I’m safe
Oops! Wrong again. Most scammers and fraudsters online today use proxy servers and IP masking software to appear anywhere in the world they want to be. Many of the crooks on the Internet can appear to be right down the street when you trace their IP or email, so don’t think because you’ve met someone online who is on Linkedin, Facebook, and who calls you from a U.S. number that you are necessarily safe. It’s all so easy to fake that nearly all experienced criminals have this down. The question is, if someone does exist, how do you know you’re actually talking to that person and not someone just claiming to be that person? Verifying this is no easy task, and most people rely on trained private investigators.
Hire a professional service to assist you that is familiar with West Africa if you know or suspect you’re dealing with someone from West Africa or currently traveling or working in West Africa. Obviously not everyone from this region is a criminal, but given the high risk, it is essential to play it safe and verify with a proper background check investigation to minimize your risk for fraud.
The truth about Ghana scams
No doubt, Ghana has some great people and some beautiful places and culture. But, it is a fact that Ghana scams are a serious risk for anyone on the internet. West Africa and Ghana now have infamous history in the western world (they even have a documentary series about it!). Referred to as “sakawa”, internet money making scams range from romance to phishing to selling non-existent merchandise. And these are often all intertwined together. A less sophisticated scam involves internet romance and the request for money to be sent to the impoverished nation or suitor directly- pretty cut and dry, and of course unfortunate for the one who falls for it. Taking it a few steps further, residents of Ghana will create false identities for their online dating profiles- typically claiming to be Westerners. After some months of chatting and developing a relationship they may have an “emergency” that incorporates Ghana or even the U.K., and request that money be sent to help them or a family member in need. What is the best way to avoid these situations? Run a dating background check on people you meet, especially ones that you haven’t met in person.
Nigeria scams are too easy to spot
In some cases, yet. In other cases, not even close! Even large corporations, law firms and members of governments can be victims of Nigerian scams. Awareness is up, but not all Nigerian scammers have retired and moved to the beach. Many are alive and well, and even operating from countries like the U.K., U.S. and Malaysia where they live illegally and have criminal accomplices working with them. The fact is, Nigerian scammers are a sort of mafia and their network is now very international. It’s important to understand that you can be a serious victim of Nigeria criminals without ever hearing the word Nigeria.
Investigators say sharing less online can go a long way to increasing you and your family’s safety. The less internet criminals know about you, where you live and what you do, the better. Publish and share a lot of information online, and it’s just a matter of time until you become a victim of identity theft, romance scam or worse. What is found about you in public, can be used against you!
Stay safe, and use social media and online dating websites with caution.
© 2014 Wymoo International
© Copyright 2014 Wymoo International. All Rights Reserved. This content is the property of Wymoo International, LLC and is protected by United States and international copyright laws.