Online Dating Investigations – Part One
From the Desk of Kristen Justis, Director of Marketing and Client Relations
DANGERS OF ONLINE DATING FOR ALL GENERATIONS
PART ONE – THE WIDOW
A sixty-year old widow, a fifty-five year old divorcee, a professional woman in her mid-thirties or a twenty-three year old Army soldier, these are just some of the individuals Lauth Investigation International, Inc., a private investigation firm, have helped while being scammed through online dating. Scammers do not discriminate, they throw out a line and see who bites. Hence the name Catfish Scams. Over the next few articles, I will discuss each of these Catfish scams.
The Sixty Year Old Widow
A wonderful forty-year marriage, three children, a mortgage paid off and ready for retirement, then the life altering death of Jane’s husband occurs. Jane deals with the loneliness and grief of losing her life partner. A year later, she decides to join an online dating site to find a companion to spend time and share her life. She is matched with several gentlemen; however, one pursues her in the charming, exciting way she was hoping for.
Jane and the new guy, Joe, begin talking via e-mail. He tells her all about his life and the exciting traveling he has done. They have so much in common, she can’t believe how much she enjoys communicating with him. The communication then moves to phone calls and text messaging. They laugh, he compliments her, they have late night talks. The excitement of this new relationship begins to mount.
Two weeks into the relationship, Joe tells Jane he received a contract for work and he will be leaving in a couple of days to Malaysia. He is unsure how long he will be there. Jane requests to meet him in person prior to him leaving. Joe states he has too much to do before he leaves so he is unable to meet her. This makes sense to Jane, so she doesn’t push the issue.
After months of talking every day, Joe tells Jane he owes money to a hospital for some medical expenses and he cannot get to his money because he must be present at his bank to withdrawal money. Of course, his bank is in the United States. He even showed her a screenshot of his bank account with $2.8 Million. The hospital is holding his passport so he is unable to come home to her. He suggests she sends him the money to cover the debt so he can come home. Jane sends him the money.
Next, Joe asks for more money because now he owes money to his attorney in Malaysia. The attorney is now holding his passport until the debt is paid. Jane has to refinance her paid off house to pull money out, but she does it so Joe can come home to her.
Once the attorney is paid off, Joe needs further money as he now owes money to his landlord, who again is holding his passport as collateral. Jane, once again, sends him the money. Now, Joe claims he cannot come home because his visa has since expired and he has to pay fines before he is allowed to leave Malaysia.
A year and $100,000 sent, Jane begins to question Joe about his history. He explains there is lot he can’t share over the phone or text messaging and he will tell her everything when he returns to the States. She questions his accent because he is supposed to be American. He explains this away stating his father was in the military and he lived overseas in different countries throughout his childhood; therefore, he has a mix of accents. Jane asked him on numerous occasions to send her pictures of him. He claims he does not have a phone that takes pictures.
Once Jane looked past her emotions, she hired Lauth Investigations International, Inc. to investigate Joe. Private Investigators found no one exists under the name, birth date and addresses Joe provided to Jane. The bank account he provided was on a fake site. After much investigations, Lauth Investigations was able to link Joe to a scam stemming from Nigeria.
The catfishing scam out of Nigeria is a well-organized group of criminals, men and women, who troll online dating sites in the United States. They are trained to know the region around their victim to convince them they are from the area. The have training on how to connect with the victim and make them fall in love. Once they know the victim is hooked, they pull the line to get them to send money. The requests begin as a small amount and continues to grow over time with more requests for money.
The Nigerian criminal organization operates out of several different internet cafes, use a multitude of computers and phones, maintain various false identities and fake photos, and have fake websites. They utilize all the fraudulent documentation to scam individuals out of millions of dollars a year. Therefore, once the scam is discovered, the money is gone and unrecoverable.
Watch out for your loved ones and yourself for any suspicious relationships formed through an online dating service. Unless you meet the person face to face, do not fall prey to the eloquent words they are able to write or say over the phone. Never send money to someone you do not know personally. If you have any questions about someone you have met, spend your money hiring a private investigator. It’s better to be safe than sorry and broke.