Characteristics of Online Scammers and What to Look Out For
Recently we received a case where an individual was the victim of a Romance Scam, more specifically a Military Leave Scam. Basically it entails you meeting someone online who claims to be a soldier. After a while of talking to them they mention that they want to visit you but they require you to file for military leave. You are required to do certain things, including talking to a “superior officer” who is either the scammer himself or an accomplice. The scammer will ask for certain information and then will send you falsified documentation, and a number of forms, which you will be asked to fill out and return. You will also likely be asked to pay a “replacement officer fee” or a fee for leave. You will be told that the payment can be received via Western Union or Money Gram. There are scammers that do have bank accounts for this kind of scamming.
This is just one type of a Romance Scam, which is only one of many types of online scams. If you are on a dating website, it is advised for you not to trust everyone you end up meeting on the site. Always be aware that the person you meet might not be who they say they are. Below are a few tips to follow to try to make sure the individual is who they claim to be:
- The scammer will introduce himself using one of many possible social network sites, dating websites or email. If they try to get in contact with you via email, find out how they got your email address.
- Many times an age difference is very obvious. Scams increase with the amount of age between the victim and scammer.
- He/she will want you to send messages only to his private email and often they will change their primary email while you know them.
- Look for his profile. Check if the information he gives you makes sense and is legitimate. For example, if his profile says something different to where he says he is, then you should be cautious.
- Keep an eye out for pictures that look like celebrities or very attractive people. While some may be legitimate, lots of scammers will use extremely attractive people as their profile pictures. You can also reverse search the images on Google by right-clicking on the image and selecting “search google for this image”. If the results show the image was taken from another site then that is a strong indicator of a scammer.
- If their English is bad, it’s possible they are using a translator. Be careful
- If you receive letters, check if they seem generic in quality, they are not well written or if it seems like they have been edited.
- Scammers tend to avoid answering revealing questions about them. Their personal life, location, address or phone number remain a mystery.
- Be very careful when someone expresses their love for you online after just a few simple correspondences. While you may be worth it, chances are you are either dealing with a child or a scammer. Regardless of how serious he sounds, be very careful before making a commitment, and especially before sending off money.
- The scammer mentions that he has serious money problems. This could take on an infinite amount of forms. They lost their job, their money was stolen, they need to pay rent, they got into trouble with the law, they have medical bills, and on and on. They promise that it will be sent back immediately but it isn’t true. Be careful, no matter where you are in the world, it is downright rude to ask for money from a person you just met.
- If they claim they want to see you, and all they need it the right visa, a plane ticket, a clean bill of health from a doctor, insurance, etc. Basically they need money to come see you
- Most scammers will say they are from the United States, or Europe, but working in Africa doing charity work or visiting a friend.
If you are experiencing an incident or have been a victim, you can report it on alertafrica.com.