How a romance-scam victim laundered $1.1M worth of other victims' money

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"Nigerian bank manager": Warning, Danger, get the FUCK OUT!


What do you mean, a ‘‘virtual experience?’’

l mean your wife, your daughter. the divorce, the affair
They’re all fake memories. Like a dream.
Someone was using you to ghost-hack a government official.

No That’s impossible!

l’ve been to your apartment. No one’s there. lt’s a one-room apartment.

Yeah, l moved there when we split up–

You’ve been living there for ten years!

You have no wife, no child.
Your family exists only in your mind.

– Ghost in the Shell


That… was very depressing.


Do you suppose legitimate Nigerian bank managers have a hellish time trying to get people to believe they are real?


I get these messages occasionally - or what would be those messages, if I didn’t shut them down and block them immediately. I always wondered how the whole “romance scam” thing really worked. Or how they pick their targets, because there are public photos on my Facebook that clearly show I’m married. I guess if you throw a wide enough net, you’re going to drag something in eventually?

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That’s it in a nutshell. Send mail out to everyone and their crazy cousins so that even .1% is enough to pay the bills.

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How many members do you imagine are in that set?

This obviously isn’t why they targeted you, but in many cases, they target older people on senior dating sites. My mother had several attempt to lure her in, and one of them had her convinced he was real, even though I kept insisting he wasn’t legit. He screwed up finally, because she was on her hoome phone with him when one of his accomplices called her cell phone also posing as her suitor. The gig was up at that point. Luckily, my mother never sent him any money. She may be somewhat naive, but she’s not gullible enough to send someone money. The other attempts to lure her in to one of these scams all ended the second they said they needed money for something. The one lasted much longer because they were really trying to get her hooked before they asked for money. They had been posing as a man who lived nearby but was currently overseas on business. They even sent a bunch of pictures they probably stole from some poor guy’s facebook account. Which reminds me of their first big mistake, although I couldn’t convince my mother of this. They sent a picture of him with his adult son … allegedly. Oddly enough, they were both standing next to a World Series trophy and his son looked an awful lot like Curt Schilling.


Well, I don’t know about “older”, but I am in my 40’s. I usually get told I look younger, but frankly I’m not very photogenic so maybe I look old in photos :wink:

Usually I get scammers with photos of guys that look like they’re 10-15 years older than me. Occasionally I get someone younger. But in any event, seniors are prime targets for most scams, it seems like. They’ve probably got money and they might be lonely and bored. I had a rash of them over the past 2 months, maybe I was looking particularly old/gullible in my last photo.

I’ve been reverse-image-searching the photos they use. Apparently there’s a few favorite stolen photos that go around. I got hits for “romance scam” on every one I searched, except for a dude in India that might have actually been a legit person hitting on me (??)

That’s a fascinating, and really sad article. I read the whole Wired piece as well… I feel sorry for the people so desperate for love that the fall for this type of scam, and can’t imagine how low the minds are that concoct the scheme. Thanks for sharing.

One note though - from the Wired article, Elrond is doing a 54 month sentence, it was Vasseur mother / daughter couple who are doing the 31 year sentence.

There was an episode of __________ a while back (planet money maybe?) that talked about the approach of scammers like this, and why the scams are so poorly constructed and obviously fake. It’s actually to quickly rule out anyone with the mental/emotional wherewithal to see through the ruse. This makes it a lot more efficient for the scammer. They don’t want to waste their time reeling in a fish that isn’t going to stay on the line. They aren’t trying to squeeze a little out of a lot of people, they’re looking for those people they can really milk. Unfortunately, and disgustingly, this ends up always being the most economically/emotionally/mentally vulnerable among us.


It seems like such a narrow line. Obvious enough to rule out the people who will catch on quickly, but not obvious enough that everyone would spot it. But people fall for those 419s still and they haven’t improved their tactics* really since 1990. I guess with 7 billion people in the world the pool of candidates is much bigger than I think it is.

  • I’ve gotten one a couple times that claims to be so sorry I lost all that money to scammers and now the government of Nigeria wants to reimburse me for what I allegedly sent them. That one amused me.

I feel like she needs to be a character on Orange is the New Black now…


There was an episode of Intervention with a man who had lost the family farm to internet scammers. (He was also addicted to meth) And there was a line he uttered that I think is key: “They can’t all be scams” - to me, this sounds like gambling addiction, similar anyways. (Also I’m sure the meth was super helpful to his critical reasoning skills)


This kind of logic gets people into so much trouble.

Like, #NotAllScams?

That’s a really interesting point. And it also highlights how no one seems to be going after these guys. If the DOJ wanted to pursue international fraud the way they claim to pursue terrorism, it’d be a pretty simple bust to make, it just takes resources.


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