Just picture this: you wake up one day, immediately roll over towards your nightstand, and reach for your phone to check you Facebook feed, Instagram, whatever! Before you can rub the sleep from your eyes, you notice you have a new notification from one of your dating apps. Your heart skips a beat! You haven’t had any hits in weeks, so you open your app to read the message. It reads:
“Hello, beautiful lady, I am a Nigerian prince, and I am in need of your help! You are so beautiful. I want to marry you. The only problem is, in order for me to access my riches, I must ask you to wire me $2,000 via Western Union or PayPal so that I may send you millions in return…”
You roll your eyes, block the guy and crawl back into bed.
Why are people like this? You ask yourself. You may have outsmarted the “prince” this time, but this is a more decipherable, easy-to-spot scam. There are TONS of less noticeable ways that scammers from the country of Nigeria can work their way into your accounts, ultimately ruining your life.
You may have gotten off easy this time, but what if it wasn’t so simple the next? Today, we will be discussing all of the common romance related scams that stem from the country of Nigeria, and how you can avoid them!
Discussing Nigerian Scams
Believe it or not, there are actually scams that emerge from the country of Nigeria that are a lot more difficult to rule out as fake. The worst-case scenario would be one of those scammers preying on elderly people, who are their main targets. They’ll find a lonely old woman, maybe heartbroken or just tired of being alone, and convince her that they are the “man” of her dreams; he just needs her to prove her love by sending him $10,000. Put your pocketbook away, Granny, I smell a scam cooking!
In 2018, a massively successful Nigerian fraud ring was busted, resulting in seven Nigerian mens’ indictments. Those men alone managed to scam $1.5 million out of people on many big-name dating sites. In the entire year of 2018, authorities have brought over 21,000 different scams to light, generating almost $143 million! While the median loss amount is closer to $2,600 per person scammed, people aged 70+ have been found to have lost an upwards of $10,000, since they prove to be more vulnerable.
How Romance Scams Happen From Nigeria
One of the main ways scammers find their target audience is through strategic placement. They will utilize dating sites geared specifically toward those who are especially lonely and more vulnerable– such as divorcees, people with disabilities and even farmers in more rural areas– and use their vulnerability against them. For example, a woman was almost scammed after lots of intricate fraudulent behavior that nearly went over her head, but she began to grow suspicious when her “boyfriend”– who claimed to be a US citizen overseas for work, mailed her a box of paperwork for her to fill out. Some messages he sent read as follows:
“Am totally new to this online dating stuff”
“Am in West Africa for a particular contract but would be getting that accomplished in a couple of week” (Notice poor grammar, red flag!)
“We should be able to take this relationship to another level when I get back home.”
After a relationship was concretely established, the “boyfriend” began asking for favors, such as “I want you to assist me to pay the bill.”
The woman took her suspicions to local authorities, who simply made one phone call and unveiled an extremely sophisticated fraud ring who had already scammed others out of millions collectively.
Need To Know About Romance Scams
The main things you need to know about romance scams out of Nigeria are that they have become much more careful and dedicated to their cons, to the point where they will devise a completely false personal life, fabricating families, memories, and all sorts of things to make their stories that much more believable. They have no remorse for their actions and will victimize anyone and everyone who will fall for their schemes. Although it is easier for them to target the elderly and emotionally vulnerable, don’t think that they won’t try their hardest to trick you into falling into their trap!
Some warning signs include:
- Claims to be university educated, yet their English is poor
- They will profess their undying love after only a few short conversations
- Their profile photo and backstory is inconsistent with what is provided on their profile
- They may become more desperate and persistent when requests for money or gifts are not fulfilled immediately
- They always have an excuse as to why they can’t travel to meet you or why they need more money
With over 25,000 known scammers worldwide, and a good chunk of them coming from Nigeria, there is no telling how many con artists have yet to be discovered, so always be cautious when chatting online with someone you’ve never met before!
How Do Nigerian Romance Scams Work
The scammers will extract as much personal information as they possibly can, whether it be your full name and address, or straight on to credit card numbers, without even batting an eye. They may come off as charming and absolutely in love with you, despite having only known you for a very short amount of time and never meeting you in person, and to some that may seem as though it’s just “true love”. Others may pick up on the scammy vibes fairly quickly, but some people are a but more oblivious to the fact that someone is literally using their loneliness against them to drain their pockets dry. Frauds, scams and schemes take a LOT of time, effort and patience– with some con artists waiting weeks, months or even years to establish a relationship before moving forward to the requests. You’ll think to yourself, How could a scammer POSSIBLY lead me on for an entire year, just to screw me over? There’s no way! He genuinely needs the help he’s asking for; he must really love me!
I can assure you, he KNOWS what he’s doing. He may not speak perfect English but he can pick up on whether or not he’s got you hooked, and that’s when the real nightmare begins.
The Most Popular Type Of Nigerian Dating Scam
With all kinds of people getting scammed out of hundreds, even thousands of dollars, you would assume the poor victims of this scheme are just wiring cash, never seeing that money again– but that isn’t always the case! A lot of times they will ask for gifts, like watches, iPhones, iTunes cards or other kinds of gift cards, to make it seem less likely that they’re in it to steal money.
They might make you feel guilty by saying that they love you so very much, so why can’t you send an iPhone to them in the mail to show just how much you love them? Bam! You feel like they think you don’t love them, and you’re suckered right in.
These scammers will make fake profiles on sites especially for those who are divorced, those who have disabilities and even farmers who live out in rural areas, who might not be quite as familiar with technological scams such as these. The con artists don’t just pose as men, they pose as beautiful women, too! A huge red flag for a Nigerian man posing as a woman– and I’m not even joking– is if their description or one of the first things they say to you is how nice and big their breasts are or how good their body is. It is highly unlikely that a woman would immediately bring that up in conversation, unless “she” was trying to reel in a potential victim.
Other Nigerian Romance Scams
While it’s easiest for scammers to set their traps on multiple dating platforms, it’s also common for them to take to Facebook, Instagram, and other social media sites to hunt for their prey.
Always be on the lookout for freshly made profiles that just seem off– such as an inauthentic profile picture, no other visible photos, or an extremely common sounding name, such as “Ann Smith” or “John Lee” and names of that nature. Profiles that are aimed towards seeming female may have very provocative photos of a woman showing a lot of cleavage, in a bikini or wearing tight-fitting clothing. Sometimes it can be hard to determine whether it actually is a scammer’s profile or not, with Facebook’s recent update, allowing people to completely lock down their profile.
The most tell-tale sign is if the profile was created very recently and displays a photo that looks like it’s straight from Google. You can do a quick reverse image search to find out the truth!
Are You At Risk For Being Scammed?
Honestly, I feel like anyone can be scammed at anytime, now matter how tech-savvy you may be. It’s true that elderly folks are the easiest prey, but if you have had your heart broken and are looking for validation and attention, they may just be able to sweep you off your feet long enough to drain your accounts, leaving you even more heartbroken than before. When using dating profiles and social media, always dig into your pursuer’s life as much as you can, and watch out for any inconsistencies!
It’s easier than you realize to get scammed, so always be on the lookout for potential threats. If someone is telling you that they love you after talking to you for 15 minutes, they likely have negative intentions!
What To Look Out For With Online Nigerian Dating
NEVER accept friend requests on social media from people you do not personally know, or do not have mutual friends with. They may be harmless, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! There is a difference in innocent spelling mistakes and poor grammar due to being non-English speaking– one of the most common grammatical flaws I’ve noticed in my research is the use of the word “am” in place of “I’m”.
For example, instead of saying “I’m very much looking forward to meeting up with you!” They may say something along the lines of “Am very looking forward to meeting, you are too?” This is not spell check, this is broken English!
How To Protect Against Nigerian Romance Scams
Some precautions you can take may start with your family! Speak with your grandparents and other elders and explain to them the dangers of sending money to strangers online. Give them facts and examples of what to look out for, and tell them never to fall for a person saying they love them after a very short period of time! You could be saving Granny or Pops from losing their retirement that they’ve worked their entire lives for!
Also, simply never EVER send money to someone you don’t personally know! You may think you know someone after a year of talking, but these con artists are patient and persistent! It’s best that you just steer clear of sending money or gifts anywhere if you have not met this person in real life.
It can be tricky trying to find love online while also trying to avoid being scammed, but it is possible! Just use the link a few paragraphs above to do reverse image searches of any photos they have available on their profile, and if nothing comes up, it’s more likely that they are who they say they are.
My best advice that I can give you to take away from this article is that these scammers do not discriminate and they know no boundaries– they will take and take until you physically put it to a stop, or until you have nothing left to give, then they ghost you! Always be safe when it comes to online dating and Nigerian romance scams!