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Really worried about friend in possible romance scam

(221 Posts)
SlumberingDormouse Sun 28-Jul-13 15:03:48

I've just heard something from a good friend that has really worried me and I would like to hear others' opinions.

A bit of background: My friend has been very lonely since her divorce in February (the marriage was, by her own admission, a disaster and only lasted a year). She has always been the sort of person who jumps into relationships.

The current situation: She has met someone on a dating site, whom she has been talking to for 3 months. He claims to be in the US army currently based abroad. She says that he must be genuine because they have spoken on webcam on Skype. However, to me that is not conclusive proof that he is legitimate. I am aware that scams involving fake US soldiers are very common.

What's really scaring me is that this man is coming to stay with my friend for a week very soon! She has never met him before! He claims to have a house nearby but 'doesn't want to be alone' so he's staying with my friend. This is after he supposedly returns from his last army placement to retire.

To me, there are a lot of red flags here. I think my friend is absolutely crazy and I am terrified for her safety - but she insists she is in love with this man and knows him well.

Any advice would be welcome please.

SlumberingDormouse Sun 28-Jul-13 20:03:20

Well, I've found definite proof he's a scammer.

I found the following post by a British woman earlier this year on a military scams warning site. I've flagged in bold what matches, and redacted identifying details as I don't want the scammer or my friend finding this thread:

'I too have been scammed. This person's name is FIRSTNAME SURNAME exactly as my friend knows him, he’s in the military yes, his story is he has lost his wife yes and has a son yes, and he is working in Iraq on some mission yes and will be leaving in two weeks back to the UK yes...'

It continues with a story of there being a problem with the flight, followed by a request for money etc. So it's exactly as we expected. His name is on other scam warning sites as well.

My friend seemed shocked when I called her this afternoon to tell her what I've found, but she did listen to me. Unfortunately she is still planning to meet this guy at the airport tomorrow sad. I know he won't turn up but I just hope she won't send any money.

Mixxy Sun 28-Jul-13 20:31:48

Great sleuthing OP. Youre a good friend. Now if you can
resist screaming "I told you so" tomorrow, you'll be a saint.

SlumberingDormouse Sun 28-Jul-13 20:41:12

I hope I'm not right but I know that there can't be any other explanation for what I've found. I imagine my friend will be pretty upset and will need my support, but hopefully it'll make her wiser in the future! Will update.

cozietoesie Sun 28-Jul-13 20:44:20

Yes, Slumbering. Be so, so careful - you'll be destroying a dream and trust that she has.

By the way, if you want, you can contact MNHQ via the 'Report' function on your original post, and ask them to move it to the more private part of the Talk site - where people can still read it but it can't be google searched. Your call on that.

If your friend is OK after all this, get him reported via previous links and without alerting him. Maybe something can be done.

SlumberingDormouse Sun 28-Jul-13 20:47:48

When it has died down a bit I may suggest to my friend that she reports it. He must be quite a sophisticated scammer to have convinced her, as she is a huge fan of good spelling and grammar and intelligent, cultured men! Therefore he might be in the US or the UK and not Nigeria, as they often are. It's very chilling.

cozietoesie Sun 28-Jul-13 20:53:27

Try - if you can do it without distressing her - to persuade he to put the report in while hr might still go online with her and be expecting some return. He's clearly in this for a lot and if he can be stopped, there might be a lot of other women who will be helped.

I hope she can keep him chatting online whilst reporting him?

Well done you.

tribpot Sun 28-Jul-13 21:36:37

God, I really hope he doesn't show up tomorrow. I can imagine that he might and be highly plausible in person as well. It might be worth an email to DAOLondon@state.gov (as suggested in Kernowgal's link) to seek advice. Obviously they will advise not to go to the airport, nor to confront him with your evidence. I'm sure he'll have a sob story about a woman scorned who has been defaming him on scam sites.

At the end of this article are the details of where to report him.

BrianButterfield Sun 28-Jul-13 21:47:51

You're a good friend for looking out for her. We have Chat/Take a Break magazines in the staff room at work and these stories feature with heartbreaking regularity. These are not stupid women but they just want to believe so badly.

cloudskitchen Sun 28-Jul-13 22:09:25

What a nightmare and what a good friend you are. why is she still planning to meet him at airport when you have shown her proof? I hope she has a change of heart after sleeping on it though I'm sure he won't show. Surely not confused

ImperialBlether Mon 29-Jul-13 00:01:30

Go with her to the airport. Take a photo of him when he's not looking. Go back to her house with them. Why shouldn't she have someone there with her for safety?

skyeskyeskye Mon 29-Jul-13 00:47:40

Well done OP on the detective work. I was going to mention Take A Break too. I've read stories about Army men who need money etc.

I had a fb friend request just this morning from an American army guy. Deleted it obviously!

Look after your friend, keep her safe and font let her part with any money.

The american army guy scam is well known and ahould be avoided at all costs.

Punkatheart Mon 29-Jul-13 08:21:05

It won't get that far, Imperial. Scammers don't want to be that visible. A problem will occur with his journey and that's how he will extract money.

My mother was really reluctant to believe that it was a scam. But I googled his picture and found him on several places, under different names. A picture of a genuine army officer was used fraudulently. Saddest thing was that he looked a bit like my dad, which stirred her heart strings more...

SlumberingDormouse Mon 29-Jul-13 11:02:58

Well, he didn't turn up. And my friend now admits she has sent him money sad - not this time as she realised what was going on, but in the past. She won't admit how much which is understandable. She's now scared because he has her home address. It just makes me so angry and sad for her. Thankfully she has agreed to report it to the police and online, so thanks to anyone who has provided links above - they'll be very helpful.

cozietoesie Mon 29-Jul-13 11:19:13

Sad - but to be expected.

Tell her not to worry that he has her physical address. He'll already be dealing with his other/next internet marks. Getting her at home isn't what this is all about.

If she wanted to (and it might make her feel a tad better) she could set up a new email (moving contacts across at her convenience) and a new online profile name if she's minded to keep on using that online dating site. (I don't use OD so anyone else who knows about it could advise on how easy that latter is.)

But that's really just for her convenience so that she doesn't get any spam resulting from all this.

cozietoesie Mon 29-Jul-13 11:29:13

PS - warn her that this may not be the last she hears of him. He could very well contact her this afternoon/evening with some spurious story purporting to explain his non-appearance and trying to get more cash out of her. But if she's going to contact the fraud boys (and I'd get her to do that today for the above reason) they'll advise her on how to handle it. Helping to get him caught - or at least prevented from harming more of his current 'list' - might be the best thing for her right now.

Oh - and remind her that no-one is going to treat her like some kind of daft fool. The people that try to stop these guys are well aware of just how professional they are and what the circumstances are likely to be.

All the best to her in the future.

SlumberingDormouse Mon 29-Jul-13 12:52:35

My friend has now received an email purporting to be from customs in Ghana hmm claiming that the man has been arrested at the airport for carrying an illegal firearm! No doubt a request for money to help him out of this situation is not far behind.

Thankfully my friend now sees that this is totally ludicrous and that there is no way she would hear from customs using a Yahoo email address in a country that has no flights from Iraq! She says she is feeling like a right fool but seems to be holding up well. I'm really glad the scales have fallen from her eyes and she can now report it.

Punkatheart Mon 29-Jul-13 13:03:47

Tell her she is NOT a fool - but a kind, trusting person who has been taken advantage of by people who are more cynical.

Yes - don't worry about them having her address. It's easy enough to find anyone's address and there will be many many more women they are playing. She can report it but alas, there is not much more that can be done.

Wishing her better luck with a lovely man and give her a hug and a cup of tea from me.

xx

cozietoesie Mon 29-Jul-13 13:07:45

Oh yes. They think she's sucked in now so they'll keep on trying for a short while. This is why it would be so good for her to report it now if she's up to it. Most of the time, the fraud boys (US, UK and international) find out so late that there's nothing they can do - but with a 'live one', it's just possible for instance that their techies might at least be able to track other women that they're currently fastened on to who haven't been as lucky as your friend in finding out.

I'm so glad she seems to be holding up - and has you there to support her, especially in the medium to longer term. Watch out for her to crash a bit a week or so after this has all finished. It must have been a series of hammer blows to her.

SarahBumBarer Mon 29-Jul-13 13:14:33

If it was me I would start playing him right now. responding, promising money etc but coming up with increasing ludicrous reasons why the transfer has failed etc etc - time he is wasting with me is time he is not scamming someone else. Want to send me the email address of Ghana customs - I can pretend to be her solicitor friend that she has asked to help in whatever way is required grin

Seriously - I hope your friend is ok and that this experience does not make her cynical but perhaps just a little more cautious.

cozietoesie Mon 29-Jul-13 13:33:36

Slumbering

Without wishing to go OTT and raise your friend's paranoia levels, I'd gently suggest to her that she (sometime pretty soon) scan her computer for nasties - if she ever got private emails from him and eg opened pictures or so on. It's not unknown for these gangs to be multi-enterprise.

ImperialBlether Mon 29-Jul-13 14:21:41

Oooh yes, do that, Sarah!

I'm laughing at the Yahoo email address for Customs in Ghana. Of course they knew her email address, didn't they?

cozietoesie, that's a good idea - this is a live case so investigators might be able to do more with it, rather than waiting until it's an historical case.

BitOutOfPractice Mon 29-Jul-13 14:51:36

Oh OP sad Just wanted to say how sorry I feel for your friend. These low lifes really are the scum of the earth aren't they?

I hope she's ok in time. No need for her to feel embarrassed. These people do this for a living and they are really good.

WEll done on helping her see the light

BalloonSlayer Mon 29-Jul-13 16:52:23

Oh another friend of mine had an "American" internet boyfriend who worked for Amnesty International hmm and had gone to Africa on a diplomatic mission.

He ended up "being held by corrupt police" and needed money blah blah blah. She only didn't send him any because she was completely skint. I asked her what country he was in and she said "Africa." I had to point out that Africa is a continent, not a country. confused

This one had sent her photos of himself that were very staged, lying next to pieces of art etc. Most peculiar.

Ilovefluffysheep Mon 29-Jul-13 17:14:18

So sorry this has happened to your friend. I work in the fraud department (am a DC) and this is so common you wouldn't believe. It is amazing how many articulate, ingelligent women are taken in by this, it really can happen to anyone. Sadly some of the amounts of money we hear about that are paid are amazing, so I really hope your friend hasn't lost too much.

Perhaps the "best" one we had was a request for funds as they were in hospital and their treatment was going to be removed unless they could pay for it. This request was sent complete with photo shopped picture as "evidence". Unfortunately the victim we were dealing with really didn't want to believe it was a scam despite us (the police) telling her it was.

These people really prey on lonely women and go about flattering them so that they very quickly become trusting of them and calling them their boyfriend/partner/even finance despite the fact they have never met them. They basically tell them what they want to hear.

Makes me sick, and because they are generally all out in Nigeria there is nothing we can do about it. Glad your friend has got someone like you around.

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