Online Dating Investigations – Part One

Online Dating Investigations – Part One

From the Desk of Kristen Justis, Director of Marketing and Client Relations



Online Dating Danger

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.

catfish definition

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.

Finger-print-investigation-4Once 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.


The Dangers of Online Dating

The Dangers of Online Dating

The day after Valentine’s Day of 2013, national news reports indicated a spike in new online dating memberships. Once somewhat frowned upon, looking for love online has become more socially acceptable within the last ten years.

Ann Friedman, a politics columnist for New York’s website, reported in her article Cupid’s Cursor, that one-third of America’s 90 million singles have used online dating services. While some find love, get married, living happily ever after, some have met with tragedy.

Robyn Gardner - Still Missing


Robyn Gardner, who I wrote about August 25, 2011 in an article Missing Persons Advocacy Network, remains missing after meeting Gary V. Giordano online. They met each other on an online dating site, and saw each other a couple times a month. Robyn considered Giordano a friend and agreed to take a vacation to Aruba where she vanished. Her family is still desperately searching for answers. After her disappearance, Giordano attempted to sue American Express for a $3.5 million insurance policy he took our on Robyn prior to their trip to Aruba.

Gary Giordano arrest photo. Courtesy of AP.

Robyn Gardner is just one of many people who have fell victim to an online predator. November 30, 2012, Michigan law enforcement announced the body of Leigh Swanson had been found in the woods, approximately 10 miles northwest of Midland. Her cause of death was a fatal gunshot.

Swanson, 45 years old, had met a man on an online dating site according to her mother, Beverly Kane. Kane said her daughter had expressed that she had a bad feeling prior to going on the date but made a call to her mother on November 18, 2012 from the man’s home indicating everything was fine and she would be home soon. She never arrived and no one knew whom she had gone on the date with.

Leigh Swanson

After Swanson was reported missing, authorities traced the call to a house in Edenville Township, and dispatched deputies to the location. When the deputies approached the front door, they heard a gunshot from inside and ordered anyone inside to come out with their hands over their heads. A man exited the home holding a cell phone in his hand. The man had been on the phone with 911 reporting his son had just shot himself. A search ensued, and police found Swanson’s body in a wooded area on a neighboring property.

While the positive stories about online dating far outnumber the bad, the harsh reality is that online dating can also put people at risk. Following are some tips that can help keep you safe. Remember you can never take too much precaution when it comes to your personal safety.

Protect Yourself

1. Always meet in a public place. Never invite the individual to pick you up from your home or accept an invitation to theirs.

2. Use the online dating site email system to communicate. Remember, the more information you give out the easier you are to find. Even providing a private email address gives someone enough information to find out who you are and where you live.

3. If you decide to meet personally, attempt to obtain as much verifiable information about the person prior to the meeting, such as name and phone number.

4. Make sure you let someone close to you know who you are meeting, where you are meeting, and as much information about the person as possible. You can even have your friend call you during the date. This gives your friends and family peace of mind but also sends a clear message to the individual you are with that others know where you are.

5. Do your homework. It is not unreasonable to conduct a background investigation on a potential mate and could lessen the danger to yourself and those you love.

6. No matter how comfortable you feel with the person, never leave your food or drink unattended.

While I am not discouraging anyone from online dating, I do encourage you to take every precaution necessary to protect yourself. We must not permit tragedies or the lives of victims to be in vain.

About the Author: Kym L. Pasqualini is founder of the Nation’s missing Children Organization in 1994 and the National Center for Missing Adults in 2000. She served as CEO until January 2010. Kym is recognized as an expert in the field of missing persons, and has spent 20 years working with families of missing persons and homicide victims, government officials, advocates, and national media. She is also a contributor to Lauth Investigations International and the Missing Persons Advocacy Network.