Scamming: be careful with virtual acquaintances

Desperate woman at the computer

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Promised is the great love, the fast money or the dream job – but behind the tempting offers is often so-called scamming.

Often the way to the longed-for happiness leads through Advance payments to scammers (Scammer). Those under the name Nigeria Connection This well-known scam is no longer limited to mass mailings with absurd promises of profit, but appears in many different forms.

Forms of scamming

Fraud with pretended love

Love or romance scamming is particularly perfidious and causes high emotional stress for the victims. In online partner exchanges or also in social networks the scammers are looking for potential victims. Once a contact is made, they are showered with expressions of love and attention – with the sole purpose of taking money out of their pockets. Because the virtual partners give z.B. pretending to have run into financial difficulties during a business trip to West Africa. Or they need money for an important operation of their child or a relative. Even stolen suitcases and passports, unpaid wages, or an unpaid hotel bill should be get the unsuspecting victim to transfer money. And many do it, after all, at this point they are already from their Internet partner/partner emotionally dependent.

Special case: fraud with false identity (soldier)

The perpetrators pretend to be American soldiers on deployment abroad who because of this are currently unable to access their private money. Then they ask for support via Western Union or MoneyGram and promise to pay back the money. contact/relationship formation is sometimes followed by an Phone calls via cell phones or Skype without a picture in English, so that an even more personal bond can develop. The cell phones are then often prepaid cell phones, where the owners are not traceable.

Fraud with false promises of money

One of the oldest tricks of the Nigeria Connection include e-mails (formerly letters or faxes), which give the recipient a lot of Promise moneyfrom an inheritance or a family treasure for example. In order to get the money you want, however initially many thousands of euros for fees, Notary fees or tax due. If the victim pays, the scammers break off the contact – the paid money is irretrievably lost. At the moment, the scammers are again using letter mail to rip people off. In this way, they want to give their criminal activities an official appearance.

Fraud with apartment offers

A great apartment at a bargain price – an offer too good to be true. Especially with Real estate exchanges on the Internet apartment seekers can fall for scammers. The scam almost always works in the same way: The Scammer (engl. for fraudsters) pretend to be Englishmen or Americans who would have inherited the apartment to be rented out. Or they say they used to work in Germany and want to rent out their old home after a job-related move abroad. After a advance payment of the first rent and deposit the keys are to be sent to the new tenant via the parcel service DHL or an agency by transfer to a domestic or foreign bank account or by cash transfer. If they are not satisfied, the money can be refunded later. But the victims never see the money again, and neither do the Apartment often does not exist at all or belongs to another owner who is unaware of the scam itself.

Dream job scam

Also among the Job advertisements in daily newspapers Fraudsters search for possible victims. It is the dream job with excellent pay that makes many pick up the phone – a phone number is usually the only contact given. After the first call, the victims are supposed to fax application and resume. And after a telephone job interview you already have the supposed job in your pocket. Only a few hundred euros for uniforms or work shoes have to be transferred to the new employer. No sooner has the money been transferred than the employer vanishes into thin air.

Fraud with forged checks

In ads in newspapers and on the Internet, the scammers are looking for people to whom they can offer their forged checks in a seemingly legal way can turn them on: For example, they use them to make a purchase from private individuals. Most of the time Checks made out for a higher amount, than, for example, the privately offered car actually cost. It is agreed that the victim will transfer the difference from their own account to the scammer by cash transfer at the same time. The problem is that even bank employees rarely recognize a forged check. The Victim loses out in two ways. It takes a few days to discover that the check was forged – by then, the money transferred has already disappeared into opaque channels. In addition, the bank can be charged with fraud criminal proceedings against the victim initiate.

Scammers also try again and again with check fraud when buying a car. Important tips on how to proceed correctly when buying a car on the Internet can be found at the initiative "Sicherer Autokauf im Internet" (Safe Car Buying on the Internet).

Beware of romance scamming

A short chat or a nice mail from a stranger – the so-called love or romance scamming starts harmlessly. The scammers look for online dating sites or in social networks such as Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook for victims and browse the member lists there. A short online invitation to chat serves many as the first contact. In order to make themselves interesting to the potential victim, they put on Romance scammers unusual life stories – and they always leave a serious impression.

Scamm men pose as engineers, architects, sociologists, designers in the oil industry, veterinarians, computer specialists and U.S. Soldiers out. In the scammer profile photos, female victims are presented with an attractive white person – they Pictures, however, are stolen. And even if the "new guy" pretends to live in America or another European country, he is probably based in West Africa. However, the victims do not notice this, because these chat acquaintances speak perfect English or use expensive translation tools for their mails.

Scamm women prefer to pose as nurses, doctors, orphanage workers or teachers, actresses, as well as businesswomen of all kinds. The women on the pictures in networks and on dating sites are extremely attractive. But also these pictures are mostly stolen or photographed solely for scamming purposes. This can be seen from photo spreads with similar poses and clothing. Many women pretend to be Russian. But they can also come from South America, Thailand, Africa or Europe. All scamm-women also have a perfect command of the English language, sometimes even the German language.

Procedure of the scammers

Both scamming men and scamming women manage to get To make indispensable in the daily life of their victims – without a single meeting. A romantic mail in the morning is followed by a short phone call at noon, after work they chat or talk for hours on the phone. At the beginning, the conversations are by no means about money, but about the job, the family as well as about love and a common future. Stories about deceased spouses and children are often served up.

If the scammers are not already there, then they urgently need to to West Africa for business or family reasons. In doing so, the scammers promise that they will visit their new love afterwards. But before or shortly after the ticket to Germany is booked, there are difficulties: Muggings, stolen or confiscated passports, a hospital stay after a car accident, or problems with credit cards. victims are asked to, By cash transfer (z.B. Western Union or MoneyGram) to send money.

Love is always strongly emphasized in such begging emails. Sometimes victims are contacted by a "doctor", a "police officer" or "relative" who has even more Put pressure on the victim should. This often goes so far that the scammers announce their suicide – just to get the money.

At present, the scammers have it especially targeting foreign identity documents. Often they ask their victims to send them copies of their passports – explaining that they want to open a joint account. This makes it easy to forge identity documents. Very popular are also invitations to Germany as support for a visa application.

In other cases, victims are asked, African checks and payment orders to deposit money on their own bank account (because this is not possible in West Africa). The victims are supposed to transfer the largest part of the check back to West Africa by cash transfer via MoneyGram or Western Union, they are allowed to keep a small remainder for themselves. Problem: The checks are returned checks and the account holders are responsible for paying them back to the bank. In the worst case threatens the victim even a criminal complaint because of fraud.

Small packages dropped off by a third person are also said to be sent to the scammer in Africa. The contents are mostly paid for with a stolen credit card. Forwarding or keeping the packets is illegal and can victims into serious trouble bring.

Often scammers pretend that they can not pay for the plane ticket for the meeting in Germany. Also Costs for visa or visa issuance due – not to forget the so-called PTA or BTA, a kind of fee to the government, without which one could not leave the country at all, and which must be paid in cash before departure. This fee does not exist officially.

Recognize romance or love scammers

  1. By the contact: Through networks or dating sites, scammers get mail addresses. A concise mail in English with a invitation to chat serves as a lure. Since the scammers often work with German mail addresses, it is rarely obvious that a scammer is hiding behind the nice lines. Stay away from chat names with unusual characters (e.g., "I", "I", "I", "I", "I").B. Percentage signs) – these send software with their messages, which can harm the computer.
  2. The language: The scammers usually communicate in good English. Insiders assume that about 95 percent of the English-speaking contacts on German dating sites are romance or love scammers. However, there are also many that perfect German talk.
  3. At the pictures: Scamm women prefer to lure their victims with beautiful photos, often showing them lightly dressed, while scamm men often use photos of uniformed men.
  4. At the content of the mails: Scammers overwhelm their victims after the first contact with endless letters full of turgid oaths of love. They are easy to recognize by the exuberant declarations and expressions of love. But there is another way: serious-looking mails are supposed to arouse interest. Often the scammers want knowing everything about their victim: hobbies, former partners, children, friends, even faith in God always plays a role. Important: The scammers soon refer to their new partners as "husbands" or "wife and make marriage plans. That’s why asking for a visa or a joint account seems justified.
  5. To connections to West Africa/Russia/Southeast Asia: Whether Business trip or family problems, there are many reasons for a connection to Nigeria, Ghana etc. Women, on the other hand, often live in Eastern European / Southeast Asian / South American countries.
  6. To requests for money / visa / parcel or letter delivery / joint account: There are many reasons to ask the victim for money. Refuse to send money, fraudsters find other ways. Fake checks to be deposited in Germany are one of them. At the moment, the desire to be invited to Germany is very strong. Here the scammers not only want to live at the expense of their victims, but also continue to operate on behalf of the Nigeria Connection. The scammers also manage to cleverly use the to abuse victims for their own purposes, for example, to send letters or parcels to third parties. Scam women often beg for invitations to Germany. Often the scammers pretend to want to open a joint account with the victim and ask for copies of identification documents. The data is used for passport forgeries.

How to verify your online acquaintance

Enter the name of your Internet acquaintance(s) with the suffix "scammer" Google one, for example. The search engine can confirm a suspicion in many cases. If you have been sent a picture, you can use the reverse image search to get additional information about the picture.

It is also wise to use an alternative e-mail address for online contact exchanges or for digital correspondence with a stranger. This is how you can avoid having to delete your main mail account in case of a scam.

What to do if I have been scammed?

Ignore: Do not respond to the scammer’s demands. Transfer under no circumstances money. Also, do not cash checks or forward letters and packages – do not keep those either. If possible, immediately cancel any payments you have already made.

Back up: Save all mails and chat texts as Evidence on a storage device such as your favorite cloud service, an external hard drive, a USB flash drive, or a CD-ROM from. Lift wire transfer receipts, etc. on. If you cannot do it yourself, have computer-savvy acquaintances and friends read the so-called e-mail header for you. This will tell you where the mail was sent from. Self-help sites on the Internet also explain how you can protect yourself from greater harm.
If you are still unsure, contact your nearest police station. Here is what you need to do specifically to be able to save all evidence.

Get help: File a complaint with the Police. While prosecuting such offenders is difficult because they operate from abroad. Nevertheless, you should report the incident in any case. This is especially important if, for example, banks want to take criminal action against victims who have unknowingly submitted forged checks. The police will help you not only to secure evidence of the fraud, but also to block the perpetrator(s) consistently.

Block: Break any Contact off. Do not respond to mails or calls from the scammer. It is best to get a new mail address and phone number. Danger also exists for friends in the social network and for all contacts in one’s own mail address book. Because the perpetrators usually also send a computer virus with their mails. This scans the data in the mail address book and also otherwise allows control over the victim’s computer.

Consequences for victims and prosecution of perpetrators

If, out of pure courtesy or helpfulness, you cash a check that later turns out to be counterfeit and is therefore charged back by the bank, the financial damage to you. After that you became a victim of a fraud according to. § 263 StGB. However, especially in these cases, the victims also very quickly fall under the suspicion of making common cause with the perpetrators. Under certain circumstances, this may result in a criminal complaint by the bank.

If you have already sent copies of identification documents to a scammer and have concrete evidence that Your data misused for fake ID cards you should file a criminal complaint with the police.

It is problematic that the contacts of the Scammer represent so-called punishment-free preparatory actions – so an absurd mail alone is not illegal. However, if you have suffered a financial loss, then you should In any case, file a complaint with the police for fraud.

Never give money to strangers

As a general rule, you should not transfer money to people you have never met or seen in person, nor should you accept any other demands. Especially on the Internet there are many scammers, who want to earn a lot of money from the credulity of their fellow human beings want. So always be suspicious of unbelievable offers, whether in the search for an apartment or a partner.

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