Criminals take advantage of those looking for companionship. They prey on the emotions of individuals and form long lasting relationships. Once trust is gained they ask for money and often leave the victim penniless.
This type of scam is very organized and carried out by a network of individuals. Victims are contacted via online dating websites, social media platforms or email. The criminals use fictitious identities and online profiles to carry out their scheme. Once contact is established they get the victim to communicate privately outside the dating website or social media platform so that they can continue to gain more victims using that fraudulent profile. Criminals go to great lengths to gain the trust of the victim and maintain the relationship. They shower the victim with loving words, encouragements and at times send gifts. They will take months and often years to form these relationships. They will promise to come and visit but always have a reason why they never show up.
After a period of time and defenses are down they will ask for money. The fraudster will claim they are in the hospital and need assistance paying their bill. They may claim they have an ill family member or a financial hardship due to a failing business. If they promise to visit they will ask for money to cover the cost of the flight. They will ask for funds transfer, money orders, prepaid card or virtual currency. If you do not send the money immediately their messages or phone calls become more desperate. They always have new stories and always need more and more money.
Many criminals will ask the victim to open accounts for them or accept funds into their established accounts at the financial institution. They tell the victim they want to send them money and the victim provides the online banking credentials and debit card information. Once they have access to the account the fraudster will deposit counterfeit checks via mobile deposit. Before the check has time to clear they ask the victim to send funds to someone else via funds transfer, money orders, prepaid cards or virtual currency.
Many times they will use the victims account to funnel stolen funds. They will send checks, wire transfers, ACH credits or cash to the victim. The funds are from others they are actively victimizing. Instructions are received to send the money to someone else believing they are helping their loved one. Eventually the money will make its way out of the country.