August 17, 2008

Dating Websites Invaded by Scammers from Nigeria and Ghana

Filed under: Dating — Mim @ 7:30 am

Dating websites have been invaded by scammers from Nigeria and Ghana. While eHarmony and other dating website services are bulging with new paying subscribers, what they are not telling you is the subscriptions are pouring in from western Africa. These Africans from Nigeria and Ghana are pretending to be Americans and Canadians and they have discovered the quickest way into someone’s wallet – is through the reputable dating websites.

WHOSE PICTURE IS THAT?

The photographs posted by the Africans are not their own, but rather pictures of Caucasian women and men which they have taken from the internet. Sometimes the scammers get confused and mix-up the pictures they upload to eHarmony and Yahoo Messenger. Or their profile lists one name, and they introduce themselves in an IM under an entirely different name. They tend to butcher English names leaving out some of the letters. Their online profiles have similar characteristics and their e-mails flow with flowery prose that would melt the hardest of hearts.

I know because one of them melted my tough heart after having sent me many beautiful thoughtful e-mails every morning. Then when he said his favorite writer was Shakespeare, I was thrilled. So I instantly wrote him back with one of my favorite and very famous Shakespearean quotations, and he asked what was that? I explained it was a very famous quotation from “Romeo and Juliet.” To myself I wondered, how could he not have recognized those lines if he were a fan of Shakespeare? At the time, it did not add up.

But I still wanted to believe he was real even though he had not recognized the famous lines from Shakespeare because he sent me a beautiful note about how he woke up in the morning with a smile on his face knowing he would be talking to me that day. I knew we had never spoken on the phone, but ignored that detail. I later found the exact e-mail he had sent me from an internet website filled with love quotations.

In fact, I found a copy of his entire message on the internet along with explanations for where to insert the woman’s name and a choice of endearments for the romantic message! This was accompanied by a half dozen other such messages at that website which I instantly recognized, as he had previously sent me those same messages. So my love for this stranger went down the drain as I realized I had been fooled.

The Africans’ intent is to pretend to be in love by sending flowery prose and then eventually asking for money. They know to go for the heart strings, so they have a sorrowful story about their sick child who had to go to the hospital for some emergency, combined with a roundabout explanation for why they need money to help pay for the hospital bill.

Once the American or Canadian is hooked into sending money to pay the hospital bill, the Africans refer to this as “getting a contract.” In other words, you are their contract. Then the amount of money they request starts to increase.

Another scammer claiming to be setting up a new business as a jewelry store, informed me in a series of dire e-mails that his only son had become seriously ill over the weekend and had to be hospitalized and that there was a problem with paying the hospital bill. Although at the time I believed his son had gone to the hospital, I did not send money to pay for the boy’s hospital bill. But I did become suspicious because this was now the fifth match from eHarmony with practically the same profile and the pattern was too similar to the previous matches. I wondered what was going on?

FINANCIAL LOSS

According to my online research, the average American woman has been scammed out of $5,000 before realizing there was no hospital bill for a sick boy and the man she thought she was sending money and writing to was not necessarily a man or even available, or the right age, or Caucasian or living in America or Canada, but just a con-artist from Nigeria or Ghana who could not be prosecuted under American or international laws.

Many of these women also had their credit card numbers stolen or their identities. Some of the women eventually realized they were being used as a conduit for shipping and receiving electronic merchandise bought with stolen credit card numbers. While men may also have been victimized, there was no information on their financial losses.

COULD THIS HAPPEN TO YOU?

Before presuming this could never happen to you or your friends, it is important to realize you may find yourself suddenly single as I did after 24 years of marriage. Now I was one of the 51% of Americans that was single. That instantly made me vulnerable though I did not realize it. So I signed up for eHarmony because I thought they had attractive TV commercials and I believed all the malarkey about the alleged psychologist Neil H. Warren actually having a bonafide matching system for helping single people to find a soulmate.

PROSAIC WHISPERS OF LOVE

So where do the Africans find the lovely prose which they cleverly insert into IM’s or e-mails? The answer is they go to various websites which have sentences and entire paragraphs of lovely things to write to a woman or man in perfect English. The websites encourage the readers (scammers) to copy and paste the sentences and paragraphs into their instant chats and e-mails for English speaking people. Instructions are also included to insert personalized comments as well in all the right places.

NOTIFYING EHARMONY

I’d finally had enough after eHarmony had matched me up by now with 16 men allegedly from America and Canada, having nearly identical profiles. There was only one man whose profile was written in a very literate, engaging way, and who communicated intelligently during IM’s, and who turned out to be real.

Over the course of three months, I asked each man to write to me at my Yahoo e-mail address. When I received their e-mails, I checked their e-mail headers and looked up their computer IP addresses on the internet. This information told me the originating city and country of their e-mail. With the exception of the one real man from Ohio, all 15 eHarmony matches were writing to me from Accra, Ghana and Lagos, Nigeria. I had a similar experience at another dating website where most of the individuals contacting me were from Africa but pretending to be residents of the United States.

During IM’s or e-mails, the scammers could only respond with one or two words, or would cut and paste a flowery paragraph into the conversation, even though it had no connection to the discussion. I wrote to eHarmony at various times with complaints about these African scammers, attempting to alert eHarmony to this invasion of subscriber-scammers. I mistakenly believed eHarmony would want to know about this invasion of their website by scammers, but eHarmony responded back by saying I either had to go online and file a complaint, which I had already done several times, or the mailbox I wrote back to when they e-mailed me was no longer in service.

ILLITERATE SCAMMERS

Since the scammers know very little English, they prefer to copy and paste messages into their IM’s and e-mails. This is why they were unable to answer my basic English questions, such as what is the nearest big city, or what kind of work do you do, etc. Each time I asked a question, they would type in “BRB” (be right back) and then return with a short response that contained absolutely no information. If I asked them where they worked, they would type “company” or “office.” If I asked what type of work, they would write “office” or “paperwork.” Their responses provided no information. One of the scammers during an IM wanted to impress me with his new American neighbors, so I asked for their last name, and he wrote back “Crook”!

Some of the scammers described themselves as having grown up in Southern Africa or France or England and said they had just moved to the United States or Canada. The scammers were totally unfamiliar with the geography of the United States. So when I asked them the name of the nearest big U.S. or Canadian city they claimed to live in or near, they would respond they did not know because they just moved there.

One scammer bragged in an IM that he had just landed a big contract to build a Wal-Mart store in Nigeria and he was in charge of the project which he said would mean a lot of traveling. So I asked him what city? He typed back he did not know. I asked why he did not know, and he typed back they had not told him where. Lies, Lies and more lies.

Likewise, the scammers were unfamiliar with major highways running through the big cities they claimed to live in or near. When pressed to give me the name of the big highway near his home during an IM, one scammer wrote back he drove the “Adopt a Highway” to work!

A SCAMMER’S PROFILE

The scammer’s online dating profile will have so many misspelled and chopped up phrases it will make your head spin. Their grasp of English is poor at best, and they rely on cut and pasted text from the internet to sound romantic and be persuasive.

The scammer’s occupation will be one of these below. Although you may try to engage them in discussion about their jobs, you will find they are unable to answer your simplest questions with straight answers. Here are some of the typical jobs they list for themselves in their online profiles which are often misspelled or typed using British spellings:

* bussiness owner
* contractor or build bridges,roads
* civil engineer
* computer analyst
* crude oil gas import export
* proffesional jewellery designer
* real estate developer
* self employ

Most scammers claim to have a wife that died leaving them alone to raise a child, usually a son, or that their wife ran off with a man who got her pregnant and they went to live in another country.

There is no browsing at eHarmony to find a soulmate. All subscribers, whether free or paid, are hidden from you unless eHarmony matches you up with someone. Then you can read the profile. You can initiate contact and answer pre-supplied questions and answers if you are a paid subscriber.

eHarmony gives subscribers a chance to answer an essay question about what subject they are most passionate about in life. Here are actual examples of what different scammers wrote in their eHarmony essays:

* my son he’s all i have for now.
* I am most passionate about my life,raising my job and raising my son to his level is in life since my late-wife died…
* My daughter,She the most wonderful thing ever happened to me.
* good
* I am most passionate abut my life and been able to raise my son to his level in life since late-wife died…
* i am most pasionate about my family,my life and my son.always want the best for my family.

Since scammers are writing from parts of the world under British influence, they use the word “Mum” for the American version of “Mom.” Here are the things the scammers are most thankful for at eHarmony:

* having my first kid
* winning my first contract
* my mum

* Faith with God
* My Son
* My Life

* My Son
* My Job
* My Life and Partner

* companion
* truthfull
* love

* God
* Love
* Life

* God
* son
* life

* when she care about.
* to make me feel happy.
* honest with me

* My Life
* My Son
* My Job

* my family
* my son
* my life

* I thanks God for keeping me alive
* IThanks god for making me Knowing him and served Him
* Thank God for my only Son

Here is how the scammers say they like to spend their leisure time at eHarmony in their own words:

* traveling,take a long walk with my partner,swimming.
* mallshopping
* swimming,reading,movie
* I like playing video games with my son to keep him entertaining,i like gyming to keep fit and like reading…
* swimming,.birds watching,…garden,…play games with my partner,…and go out with my family.

The scammers typically have no favorite books or movies to list because they have not read any books or seen any movies, though they are mildly familiar with Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt who have traveled to Africa. One scammer in trying to make IM conversation, mentioned his favorite book was “Treasure Island” and asked if I’d ever heard of it!

Here are examples of what scammers write in response to eHarmony’s essay question about the most influential person in their life:

* My Late Grandmother,she was so caring and raised me when i was young.i am very grateful to her.she really taught me how to pray and get closer to God.i really did everything with her,going to church,movies,golfing and hiking on the mountains of Sweden.
* Man of God
* MY PARENTS HAVE MAKING ME WHO I’M TODAY,….AND I SO MUCH CRIED WHEN I KNOW THEY LEAVE ME WHEN THEY SUPPOSE TO BE ALIVE

Scammers usually claim to be seeking a “partner” instead of specifying man or woman. This is because they do a lot of cutting and pasting of text as they write to both men and women, and using the word “partner” keeps it generic. Here are actual examples of what scammers supplied as additional information about themselves at eHarmony:

* At this time of my life,i great woman is welcome,i want a woman who will bring back the happiness i have lost for a long while.
* traveling,take a long walk with my partner,swimming.
* going out,playing games,cleaning
* I like playing video games with my son,I like biking and i like watching movies and like gardening…
* i love to read,have time with my family and then have personal timee with my partner.

Scammers prefer communicating outside of the eHarmony or other dating website’s communication area, and will insist you go immediately into a Yahoo Messenger or AIM chat area with them. Their e-mail or IM names typically reflect a romantic phrase, use words of love or contain plenty of X’s and O’s representing hugs and kisses. This is their attempt to soften you up.

It is unfortunate that dating websites are willing to accept paid subscribers from African countries where online services such as PayPal will refuse to do business with those countries due to the high volume of credit card theft and fraud.

eHarmony and the other online dating websites need to block subscriptions coming from Nigeria and Ghana. The bottom line is that fraud is fraud. eHarmony is engaging in fraud by allowing subscribers to believe they are being matched up with real people in their own cities or countries, when in fact, they are not.

Consider my own experience with eHarmony. I was a free subscriber for 6 months which meant I was unable to communicate with anyone, and that I could only read the profiles of the eHarmony matches selected for me. This was a total waste of time. Then I became a paid eHarmony subscriber for 6 months. But I did not realize my matches were not from the United States or Canada until halfway through my prepaid subscription period when I began communicating with them. This means 94% of my matches were with thieves from Nigeria and Ghana! eHarmony – you owe me a refund! 

Skeptically yours,
       Mim