Once money is stolen in email fraud, it has to be moved out of the country somehow. This is how romance scams tie into BECs – money mules.
The FTC reported that romance scams cost a reported 201 Million USD in 2019. This is a number that has almost tripled since 2015. These scammers “lure people with phony online profiles, often lifting photos from the web to create attractive and convincing personas. They might make up names or assume the identities of real people.”
Think you or a loved one might be talking to one of these scammers? Look for the signs:
A job that requires they be international.
Some common ones are:
The relationship moves quickly. They “fall” for the victim, “love”, and then want to get engaged or married within days/weeks.
The scammer will also move the conversation onto a different platform asap.
Money, they need money.
The excuses are countless but include:
– Data plan
– Medical debts/surgery
The conversation went down in about an hour’s time.
If you’re asking “Who are these people?”
Since BEC and romance scams are linked, there are groups and invidivduals all over the world that commit this type of fraud. Many that I have talked to appear to be connected with a large group of romance scammers out of Nigeria. With dozens of pre-crafted stories and introductions, these scammers talk to many victims at a time with the intent to eventually receive money or gift cards, even going so far as to ask their victims to mule money from business email compromises.
ABC News In-Depth did a rather incredible job sharing these stories:
I might be talking to a romance scammer..
- Do a reverse image search on Google
- Save an image of this person.
- Choose the camera icon in the search bar.
- Select “Upload an image”.
- Choose a file and upload, look through the images for similar.
- Use Google to look for similar stories, even look for some of the exact phrases that the person has used to look for similarities.
- Put quotes (“xxx”) around the phrase to look for exact sentences.
- Stop communicating with them immediately.
- Do not send money/any more money to this person.
- If money has been sent, contact your bank and follow their recommendations depending on how much information has been provided to this person.
- Report the incident to the FTC, FBI, and whatever site they were met on.