- Internet & the Web
Ghana and Nigeria: West Africa's Scam Centers
Love and loneliness play on one's emotion. The feeling of being loved and filling the void that loneliness creates are powerful drugs, so powerful, those afflicted, spend thousands on people they have never met face to face. This is what the scammers in West Africa countries like Ghana and Nigeria know. So, they create fake profiles on commonly used Internet meeting and dating sites, like Match,Tastebuds, and others. The women are beautiful, but not stunning. They seem normal in all respects, in fact, the viewer has no idea that behind the profile is perhaps a West African teenager, boy or girl, or older person. For all the viewer thinks, it IS a real woman, with a real email address on Yahoo (the most common). However, the photo is from some modeling site or just an image used to attract victims.
The scammers like to target middle age American men and women or older, their logic is, they probably have money. What happens is that a victim may make contact with the fake person or they may be contacted in very innocent terms. After a few discussions on the dating website, the person will suggest to go offline from the dating site and obtain a chat app, such as, Whatapp. This just helps with instant textings 24\7. The conversation is like any first meeting talk, but you will never know they are from West Africa because it is all texting. Email is too slow. The scammers want to draw you in, work you, as the relationship continues on for 2-4 weeks. Once you become romantic with "love talk" (baby, babe, my man, honeybunch) some may test out sex talk, some may not. The whole point is to make sure that "love in the air", That, God works in mysterious ways and you are "soul mates". United States citizens should be alert to attempts at fraud by persons claiming to live and/or work in Ghana who profess friendship or romantic interest over the Internet. Correspondents who quickly move to discussion of intimate matters could well be the inventions of scammers. If they are after your money, eventually they will ask for it. One dollar near buys four cedis, or GHS, in Ghanian money. So, even sending 50 dollars is almost 200 cedis. Once the money is requested, the scammer may state there is a deadline for it. This creates pressure if the victim is hesitant. If no money is sent, the scammer may try again later. Soon, the victim will notice that nearly all conversations seem to end with money being requested for some reason. In the beginning, there is no discussion of money at all. The scammers should all get Oscars. They have a well laid plan,a profile of an awesome looking woman or man, to draw in the victim.
Once a love connection is made, the scammer typically asks the U.S. citizen to send money for living expenses, travel expenses, or "visa costs". They may claim there are utility\Internet costs. Sometimes, the scammer notifies the American citizen that they or a close family member has suffered an “accident” and is in need of immediate monetary assistance to cover medical bills. Other variations of this confidence scam have emerged of late. The victim may also be shown a photo of a US passport of the alleged person, this may or may not even be real. As time goes on, the scammer will send many photos to entice your trust and lust. You may notice that some photos seem to be the same person, while others, just resemble the woman in the original profile dating site. A scammer will seldom ever have the "woman" contact you or send you audio recordings. A voice may not match the photo you are looking at. Likewise, the same applies to videos. If you request a Skype or webcam, odds are they will not happen.
One scam that the US Embassy in Ghana hears often is where the person will claim to be an American citizen who moved to Ghana as a child. They will then claim to need assistance in getting a US passport. They may claim that then need to take a medical examination or have vaccinations. They start to ask the American citizen that they have been corresponding with on the internet for a mobile phone, laptop, clothes/shoes, money for rent, money for a sick family member, etc. There are several different variations to the scams.
One of the most popular scams that the Embassy hears about is a person who claims to have inherited gold, diamonds or money from a deceased parent. They may claim that the “inheritance” is in danger of being taken by a family member so she will want to transfer it into your name. They may then get in contact with a fake lawyer who will then request “fees” to process the transfer transaction. They may start to ask for items or present their need for items (such as mobile phone, laptops, rent, and money for medical treatment for themselves or other family members). They create a false sense that the person they met online is their “savior” and the only person that could help.
Scams in Ghana and Nigeria are rampant, even some bank officials are scammers. But the promise of love steals $55 million from mostly American and European seekers via the Internet. The money is sent via Western Union, Ria, or MoneyGram. But banks are watching these transfers and if the victim is sending too frequently, their bank may block the account until its owner is contacted.
The most popular pictures that scammers steal from are from Ann Angel. She is a soft porn star. Her sexy images are all over dating websites. She is around age 30, and she also has a legtimate website, but West African scammers, use her photos many times to lure victims. In effect, Ann Angel is also a victim of scamming! The scammers can be men and women in Ghana. If a scammer is found out, they just change their name and continue earning a rich man's living in a poor country living in large mansions that look onto the harbor. One posting of a Ann Angel photo on Match.com had 50 men following. Of course, the name given was Chelsea Boamah, which matches her U.S. Passport. So, 6,000 miles away in Accra, Ghana, a scammer named Osman Mohammed or Esther Ansomaa, pretended to talk of love and enticed men to eventually send money. If all 50 men just sent $100, well, you understand. Even the photos may be Photoshopped to fit the story line, such as, she is volunteering at UNICEF in Ghana or elsewhere. One scammer was fleecing up to 40 suckers a month earning $1000, which is way above most earn. A few really good ones earn $6000. Finding out who is behind the fake dating profile is not worth the effort because they are very hard to catch. The best thing you can do to check is take the image of the person and search using: images.google.com. Click on the camera icon, upload a photo of the person, and let Google search for matches. If the photo has been used in scams, you will know! Remember, the photo that attracted you was probably stolen and used without their knowledge.
So, the next time you go to a dating site to meet your love of your life- beware!