YAHOO BOYS, ONLINE DATING, AND MONEY LAUNDERING
Online dating sites always see an influx of new users. Unfortunately, not all of these new users are actually looking for love, and an alarming amount of them are not who they claim to be. Although social media and dating websites are full of misrepresentation, a group of Nigerian scammers known as the “Yahoo Boys” are notorious for creating fake dating profiles to exploit the vulnerability of lonely people.
Despite the elementary nature of their con, the Yahoo Boys know how to pick a victim and sustain the scam. First, the scammers will flood dating websites with bare, generic profiles littered with broken English, despite identifying as American. These “Americans” claim to be working offshore on oil rigs, or they’ll introduce themselves as members of the armed forces. The typical victims of romance scams are middle-aged women; however, this statistic is skewed because men tend to report less. Once the scammer finds a good mark, he will begin an intense romantic relationship with her, beckoning his victim off the dating site to communicate.
This relationship continues, with the suitor always evading a meeting with his victim. After intense grooming, a supposed catastrophe befalls the male suitor, and he needs funds immediately. The the victim must decide if she trusts her suitor enough to lend him money that could remedy the situation. If the victim decides to proceed, the suitor repeatedly requests more and more money, draining the victim’s income and savings. When the victim can no longer send her suitor money, he mysteriously vanishes.
A recent Wired article by Brendon I. Koerner details what was perhaps one of the Yahoo Boys’ most callous efforts. Audrey Elrod was charmed by an English gentleman named “Duke McGregor,” and as the relationship progressed, she became increasingly involved without suspecting any deception. Audrey even got to know Duke’s son, Kevin, on a personal level, and considered him her stepson.
The scam ran its course: the quick, intense relationship, the departure from the dating site’s messaging system, and eventually the catastrophe that necessitated wiring money overseas. Before Audrey realized her relationship with Duke was all a sham, she had unwittingly laundered multiple sums of money, totaling over $400,000. Since each transaction was under $10,000.00, she was charged with structuring, and is currently serving a 52-month prison sentence. 1
Before the scam gets to this point, there are options. The FBI recommends reporting instances of fraudulent dating profiles to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov). Although these crimes are very emotional in nature, the FBI warns against “scam baiting,” a type of digital vigilantism, where the victim attempts to extract evidence from the scammer in the same manner the scammer has extracted money from them. Chances are, the scammer is far more experienced than the victim, and a professional investigation is more likely to produce results.
(1) Koerner, Brett I. “Online Dating Made This Woman a Pawn in a Global Crime Plot.” Wired.com. Conde Nast Digital, 15 Oct. 2015. Web. 5 Jan. 2016. <http://www.wired.com/2015/10/online- dating-made-woman-pawn-global-crime-plot/>.
LEARNING TO LOVE
Is life not full of opportunities for learning love? Every man and woman every day has a thousand of them. The world is not a playground; it is a schoolroom. Life is not a holiday, but an education. And the one eternal lesson for us all is how better we can love.
What makes a person a good artist, a good sculptor or a good musician? Practice. What makes one a good person? Practice. Love is not a thing of enthusiastic emotion. It is a rich, strong, vigorous expression of the whole Christian Character – the Christ like nature in its fullest development. And the constituents of this great character are only to be built up by ceaseless practice.
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