When the pandemic limited in-person socializing, online dating usage rose. Ameriprise is here to support clients, helping to protect information and keep financial assets secure. We are committed to:. Romance scams have been shown to affect a range of people. Criminals typically target emotionally vulnerable individuals, like someone who lost a partner or is isolated because of the pandemic or other reasons. The scams usually take place via social media or online dating sites, and the scammer is rarely available to meet in person.
Updated May 31, These are the foot soldiers in a global scamming enterprise that's breaking hearts and stealing billions of dollars. In a tiny flat in Ghana, in west Africa, an aspiring entrepreneur trawls Facebook for divorced and widowed women on the other side of the world. The year-old, who calls himself Kweiku, is searching for 'clients' — scammer parlance for victims who can be conned online into sending money.
Kweiku sells perfume on the streets of Ghana's capital, Accra, to maintain a meagre income between Western Union transfers from a woman he seduces online. He poses as a US soldier called 'Johnny', an online persona built on stolen photos, fake ID and stock scripts with storylines about urgent emergencies that can be solved with cash. While the Four Corners team is filming, Kweiku returns a missed video call from the woman and blocks his webcam with his finger so she can't see him. The conversation switches gears between declarations of love, sex talk and insistent requests for gifts and money.
It's really hard times here baby," he tells her. Sometimes I feel like, wow, this lady, she's really in some misery or pain because she really wants to see me and she can't see me.
Meet the scammers: could this be your online lover?
Kweiku's friend 'Skidoo' introduced him to the scamming business. He believes he knows the way to a woman's heart and her bank. I wanted to check on you. Have you eaten all the stuffs?
Maybe it's been long since she met someone like that, it's been a long time since someone pampered her. It's been long since someone told her sweet things, you understand. In a packed internet cafe in a commercial town west of Accra, we find teenage boys and young men in front of every screen, logged in on dating sites under names like Jessica, Mary and Jennifer. The teenagers, known in Ghana as 'cafe boys' or 'browsers', are searching for middle-aged and elderly men in the US, Australia and Canada, and luring them to chat on Google Hangouts.
I'm horny," the Australian man writes to him. And I will make sure to make him happy, like he will fall in love with me. Mohamed tells Four Corners he has been doing this since he was 16 to make a living, or sometimes just to earn credit for his phone.
Kelvin collins: don't let romance scams break your heart
Each time they "play", Mohamed tells his targets his webcam is broken and instead sends videos of the woman he claims to be. The Australian man has been sending webcam equipment to Ghana so he can finally see and hear her live.
I thought we were in the beginning of something long term. Ghana has more phones than people.
With high youth unemployment and cheap internet, online fraud is booming. At a shrine on the outskirts of Accra, businesswoman and celebrity fetish priestess Nana Agradaa casts spells for her customers to help them make money.
We watch as Nana Agraada invokes her spirits in front of a wooden idol, covered in photos of westerners which have been brought to her by cafe boys. She chants, spits schnapps and pours talcum powder on her idols, as she demonstrates one of her most popular incantations with an assistant.
Cafe boys like Mohamed, Kweiku and Skidoo are the bottom feeders in a global enterprise which has spread from nearby Nigeria. The FBI reports formidable crime organisations which originated in Nigeria have spread to more than 80 countries and are making billions of dollars a year from scams alone. This is how, in some cases, victims of romance scams are traded among criminals to be used in much larger crimes, including drug trafficking and money laundering.
Just like in Ghana's internet cafes, scammers gather online to trade skills, knowledge and fake identities in a vast black market operating on Facebook. There are day-by-day formats for every scam: among the hundreds found by Four Corners were military formats, sick mother scripts, lotto formats, gay sex chat formats, sugar daddy formats and "trust and love" scripts. Scammers advertise Facebook profiles, stolen photos of military personnel and photo doctoring skills for fabricating IDs and even medical emergencies.
In secret groups on Facebook's instant messaging service, WhatsApp, we found scammers sharing tips on mimicking American accents and female voices. In the WhatsApp groups, criminals advertised Australian bank s to launder money and buyers offered to send gifts to Australian romance scam victims. Scamming can pay well and for Skidoo, it's a brutal bottom line: West African fraudsters are taking what is owed to them. They've done us bad before and we think it's time to pay them back. In Kweiku's flat, we find a book, Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, in which his goals are scrawled on the inside cover:.
At an outdoor concert in Accra, hundreds of young Ghanians have gathered to dance, listen to music and party.
The latest news on romance scams
Watch Meet the Scammers on Four Corners tonight at 8. Topics: fraud-and-corporate-crimeinternet-cultureghana. First posted February 11, If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content. Read about our editorial guiding principles and the standards ABC journalists and content makers follow. Learn more.
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Live blog Follow our live coverage for the latest news on the coronavirus pandemic. Four Corners. Photo: Kweiku is an aspiring entrepreneur.
Federal trade commission
Photo: He sells perfume on the streets of Accra. Photo: He also poses as a US soldier online to scam women on dating sites.
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