Details emerged this week of a scam whereby a man claiming to be on a top-secret military mission contacted a lady on a dating site and encouraged her to switch to an encrypted message service in order to steal money and personal details.
In this particular scam, reported by the BBC, the victim appears to have been targeted and hooked via a military connection (a partner in the military). After a charm offensive via messaging on a dating app, the scammer, who used a fake photo, manipulated the victim into switching their conversations to a messaging app in order to avoid scrutiny.
With any scams, the motivation is always to steal money, or steal personal details (in order to get more money) or both.
Military – A Common Theme
Scammers often claim to be in the military because it instils trust. The ‘secret mission’ aspect creates excitement, intrigue, and gives the scammer a get-out clause plus protects their real identity and the scam as they can hide behind this in order to avoid answering questions.
In countries such as Nigeria, for example, where there is poverty, political corruption and a large number of internet service providers, scammers (often young students) calling themselves ‘Yahoo Boys’ have been operating romance scams for many years, sharing data on (less tech-savvy, mainly female) soft targets in other, richer countries in order to steal money. Phishing on dating or social network sites is a common scamming method.
More lucrative scams for Yahoo Boys involve getting an insider job at a bank to scam money directly and exploiting informal networks based around banks, security agencies, other fraudsters, and family members.
Some Yahoo boys have achieved notoriety for the fortunes they have made. For example, names such as Ray Hushpuppi, Ismaila Mompha, and Olalekan Ponle/“Woodberry” are names that can be found online linked to fortunes made as ‘Yahoo Boys’.
How To Avoid Romance Scams
Measures that can be taken to avoid becoming the victim of a romance scam include:
– Telling a trusted friend about what the person has contacted you has said about themselves and their intentions. This provides a valuable way to gain another perspective and can be a first (important) ‘reality check’.
– Only use trusted dating websites.
– Do not share real personal details or personal contact details.
– Never send or receive money to and from someone who has contacted you online.
– Trust your instincts.
What Does This Mean For Your Business?
Scammers operating through businesses such as dating platforms are a risk to those businesses and the victims themselves and although platforms can make it harder for scammers to operate, scammers can be very resourceful and bold. Identity fraud and romance scams are all too common and a large part of stopping them is education about the existence of these scams, how the scammers operate and how to avoid being targeted. Unfortunately, some scammers are particularly adept at spotting and exploiting vulnerability.
For businesses wanting to know how to avoid being scammed, the Met’s tips can be useful. These are to be sceptical, to know your business inside out, to know customers and suppliers, identify areas where your business is vulnerable to fraud, develop a strategy and talk about fraud, take extra care against cyberattacks, understand your finances, secure and protect your property, develop an action plan, and be sure to report any frauds that do occur.