Crimes of Persuasion

Schemes, scams, frauds.

Nigerian Romance Scams

Nigerian man breaking hearts, emptying pockets with online romance scam.

12/06 - He sounds like someone you might want to take home to meet your parents.

An honest man with a good job- who wants a good, honest woman to be his soul mate.

Someone you know may be dating this guy right now - online- and he's got quite a plan- because he's not just one guy, he's dozens of guys, sitting in a room with a script- cashing in on romantic gullibility.

"He says he's from LA. He is a single man, raising his daughter- who is 12-years-old," says Krystene Tucker.

The single mother in Mukilteo wasn't even looking for romance, when a mystery man named Redden sought her out in an internet chat room.

He sent a picture and struck up a friendship. He said he was in the import-export business and traveled a lot. His 12-year-old daughter traveled with him.

"I wasn't suspicious in the beginning," she said.

Krystene says He quickly moved in- from friendship to romance to a crisis- "Krystene- I really need your help. Can you just do this one favor for me?" My client needs to send me a check."

He gave her some convoluted but weakly believable story about being stuck in Nigeria with no way to cash the check. His "client" would mail it to Krystene.

"I would be depositing that check in my account, taking that cash and then going to Western Union and wiring that money to him. At this point I knew it was a scam and so I was looking to get something - proof of what he wanted done."

So she gave him a fake address and put on her detective hat. Searching the internet, she discovered Redden was using someone else's picture.

A man who probably has no idea his photo is being used by scammers- not just once, but multiple times.

Redden, is also James and at least half a dozen other men with the same picture. He doesn't live in LA. He doesn't have a daughter.

It's the newest evolution of the Nigerian money scam. Instead of sending spam sob stories in your email - these scammers are hitting chat rooms and online dating sites, targeting women looking for romance.

They say all the things a woman wants to hear- even send gifts of flowers, chocolates and champagne.

"Redden" even went so far as to try to influence what he thought was Krystene's daughter- telling the child her mother needed to send him money to help is own daughter in a Nigerian hospital.

He didn't know it was really Krystene.

When Krystene finally called him on the scam- he was evasive, defiant, and insistant that she had the wrong idea.

Then finally, something she was not expecting- a threat.

"I know where you live. I'm going to send a hit man. I have your picture", Krystene recounts his words. "Then, he threatened my daughter." she said.

Krystene says she doesn't take the threat too seriously, but- she's not using her real name in my report- just in case.

But sadly women are falling for this scam and losing thousands of dollars in the process.

If you're communicating online with a man who wants a relationship, don't give out any personal information like your address, financial information or personal information about your family.

Wait for several months, at least to find out more about them.

If they start asking for money- or for you to send them packages to Nigeria for any reason- stop talking immediately.

(komo-tv Seattle WA.)

Nigerian romance scams take another couple victims.

02/08 - Cpl. Paul Hallenbeck was deployed to Afghanistan when he met a woman online.

The guardsman was lonely. He had been mobilized individually, away from his unit, and tasked to deploy with the 41st Brigade Combat Team from Oregon.

His job had him training the Afghan army, and he was often outside the wire on dangerous missions.

The online conversations with this woman, who said she was from Nigeria, were comforting, a distraction from combat.

But after three or four months, Hallenbeck, 47, said he realized she was lying to him.

“I was helping her out with her tuition and I got scammed,” he said. “I was on a [forward operating base] most of the time, so any contact with humans helped, so I kind of got milked out of that.”

Hallenbeck, who was deployed from June 2006 to June 2007 in Uruzgan province in south-central Afghanistan, declined to disclose how much money he had lost — but said it was far less than the woman who fell for a photo of him.

In an ironic twist of events — and as evidence that online scam artists are thriving — Hallenbeck’s name and photo were used to scam a 59-year-old British woman out of thousands of dollars.

Hallenbeck, a former Marine who later joined the Army National Guard, said he found out about the scam involving the British woman only when he was contacted by an Army public affairs officer, who was informed by Army Times.

He is not the only service member whose name and photo were used to fool women into sending money to con artists.

Marine Col. Richard Bartch had his photos lifted from a family morale Web site by a con artist who then asked women to send money to help pay for the shipment of his luggage as he made his way home from Iraq.

The real Bartch, who lives in Spokane, Wash., knows his name and likeness have been used in the scam, but the nature of the identity theft has limited his options.

“No one can do anything about it. Just because the guy’s using my name, there’s not any real recourse,” Bartch said. “It is a violation, but it’s not like being broken into.”

The photo of Hallenbeck that was used to fool the British woman came from an article in “The Main Effort,” the monthly newsletter of the 205th Regional Security Assistance Command.

Hallenbeck confirmed that he is the soldier in the photo.

“I’m very concerned about the woman in England that was scammed,” he said.

Asked about the scam that got him, Hallenbeck said he was contacted by the Nigerian woman after he visited a Web site that allows visitors to view photos of potential partners.

“I was out in the FOB for quite a long time on quite a few missions, and a lot of missions I thought I wasn’t coming back,” he said. “When you’re out there, you’re lonely and you don’t think you’re coming back.”

During the course of his conversations with the woman, Hallenbeck said he sent her the article and photo that appeared in “The Main Effort.”

He said he also received e-mails from writers claiming to be the woman’s pastor and mother.

“That just made it more realistic that everything she was saying was true,” he said. “It’s embarrassing. I’ve never been scammed my whole life.”

The woman said her mother lived alone and was scrounging for money because her father died and she needed money for medical school, Hallenbeck said.

The woman would correspond with him regularly, he said.

The British woman who fell in love with who she thought was Hallenbeck said she, too, is embarrassed.

The con artist told her Hallenbeck was 49. The woman, divorced for 15 years, fell in love with the love letters, poems, flowers, e-mails and phone calls she received.

“It’s everything a girl dreams of, isn’t it?” she said.

The British woman, who lives in Somerset, England, said she contacted the person she thought to be Hallenbeck through a Web site aimed at connecting people with shared interests and those interested in dating.

The two corresponded every day. They even did crossword puzzles together, and the supposed soldier called quite often.

“He had an American accent,” she said. “It’s always the same person who rings.”

The man told her his wife died in a car crash nine years ago and that he had a 12-year-old son who was attending a boarding school in the U.S.

The real Hallenbeck said he is single and has never been married, nor does he have children.

The requests for money started a few months after they started corresponding, the woman said.

She was first asked, by a fake commanding officer, for $20,000 to ensure that her soldier would return to Afghanistan after visiting her in England.

She sent the money, but her soldier never arrived. She was later told that he was ambushed on his way to the airport and shot in the back. On request, she sent money to pay for his medical flight out of Afghanistan.

“I was a bit anxious about it, but Paul kept reassuring me,” the woman said. “I guess I wanted to trust him.”

Then she was told that her soldier tried to flee the military base in an attempt to find her and was now in custody. Money would expedite his release from custody, the woman said she was told.

In all, she paid about $42,000 by cashing in stocks and getting a cash advance on her credit card. Her annual salary is $30,000, and she will probably need a loan to repay the money, she said.

The man posing as Hallenbeck still contacts her, the woman said Jan. 21.

On Jan. 17, she received an e-mail asking for almost $1,000. The e-mail, clearly a fake, is purportedly from Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps-Iraq.

As bizarre as these stories may sound, such Internet scams are common, said Cathy Milhoan, a spokeswoman at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.

A popular ruse used by con artists is to tell unsuspecting folks that a wounded soldier needs money to get home to his family, Milhoan said.

“People asking you to wire money … especially to an overseas location, red flags should go off,” she said. “If something looks too good to be true, it probably is.”

(Army Times)

Nigerian Online Romance Scam Victim Charged with Fraud

03/08 - DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine - A friendship over the Internet that started off innocently enough ended in disaster for one local woman.

The woman, who agreed to an interview as long as she was not identified, said she lost about $20,000 to a scam.

Carla, as she will be known here, also could have been charged with forgery for attempting to cash bogus bills sent to her by the scammer.

Both the Dover-Foxcroft Police Department and the Secret Service of Portland confirmed they are investigating the case.

"It was an eye-opener," Carla said Thursday of her experience that ended this week. She said she took a chance and gambled on love but ended up losing her life savings.

"Be careful," she warned, "don't let your heart get in the way of your gut feelings."

Single, in her 30s, and a lesbian, Carla said she surfed the Web about six months ago and logged on to an "alternative meeting place."

There, she struck up an e-mail conversation with someone claiming to be a 28-year-old woman who had the same likes and dislikes and who was experiencing some of the same feelings of loneliness as the Dover-Foxcroft woman.

"We just hit it off right away; I was just following my heart," Carla said.

The correspondent said she was originally from the United Kingdom where she had taken over her father's business.

She told the Dover-Foxcroft woman she had gone to Nigeria on business and fell victim to the country's immigration laws, duty fees and taxes, and was stranded there with no way to return to the UK.

Carla said the pair corresponded for about a month, exchanged photographs, and had one brief exchange on the telephone which was difficult because of static, before she wired the woman $600 to help her out of her plight.

"She sounded pretty desperate, and I knew it was so unsafe there," Carla said as tears cascaded down her cheeks. "She got me so worked up, I was so concerned about her safety. It was like she was my soul mate."

A short time later, the woman mailed to Carla $3,600 in money orders from Nigeria. She told Carla that no bank in Nigeria would take her credit cards or checks and she had no bank access.

She asked Carla to cash the money orders and wire her the cash.

"I went to the bank, and the bank said they were fakes," Carla said of the money orders.

Carla said she went back home and told the woman in Nigeria that the money was counterfeit. The woman blamed it on a client of hers who, she said, had given her the money.

The woman then told Carla she had been arrested because she had failed to pay her hotel bill and the duty fees.

The woman asked for $6,000 to pay the bills. Carla said she wrote back and suggested that she must know an attorney in the UK who could help her.

In a later e-mail, the foreign woman said she had contacted her attorney and he paid all but $1,000, and could Carla help out with the balance.

Still not suspecting something was amiss and ignoring a plea from a relative not to send any money, Carla sent the $1,000 and much more over the next several months to cover medical and other expenses.

"She had so many things happen to her: She ended up in a car accident, was mugged at knife point, and then her Visa ran out," Carla said of her UK friend.

Then Carla got the e-mail she was hoping for ” the woman was going to come to Dover-Foxcroft and stay with her.

Anticipating the trip, the foreign woman mailed Carla $5,200 in $100 bills and asked that she deposit the funds and hold the money for her visit. She said the funds were from her father's estate.

Suspicious because the bills did not look right, Carla said she asked a local clerk to check them with a special pen used to determine counterfeit bills.

They were bogus. The clerk, in turn, notified the Dover-Foxcroft police.

It was then and only then that Carla recognized that she was a victim. "I thought right then that I was going to get arrested," she said.

Dover-Foxcroft Police Chief Dennis Dyer said Carla could very well have been arrested for forgery had she tried to cash one of the bills or deposit one in the bank.

He said that despite such stories and repeated warnings about scams, people continue to fall victim to scammers.

"I think there are so many good-hearted people out there who fall for scams," Dyer said. The individuals behind the scams "feed off the feelings of others," he said.

(Bangor Daily News)

More details can be viewed at Nigerian Scams, Nigerian Fraud Examples, Personal Ad Scams.