A man from Nigeria has been arrested for allegedly defrauding an elderly German lady out of over $15,000 (£10,300) over the Internet.
In what are commonly referred to as Nigerian Romance Scams, Onyena Chidiebere was able to defraud a 70 year old Internet user by striking up a relationship with his victim and gaining her trust over a prolonged period of time.
Romance scams differ from other Nigerian “419” scams since they use an emotional attachment as bait in order to lure the victim into handing over money, whilst typical Nigerian scams bait victims with the promise of large cash sums.
Romance criminals target vulnerable Internet users through a variety of methods, including dating websites, chat-rooms or email. They strike up a relationship with the victim, and employ a variety of social engineering tricks to slowly gain their trust.
Once this trust is established the criminal will request the victim send them for money for any number of seemingly innocent reasons. For example the criminal may tell the victim that they want to visit the victim but lack the funds, or that they are in trouble and need to pay somebody.
However these are just stories. Once the criminal tricks the victim into handing over enough money they will cease communication, which is generally through the Internet only. Most of these criminals operate from Africa, though some hail from China or Russia and other countries. The criminal will typically instruct the victim to transmit the money through wire services like Western Union since these cannot be easily traced.
In this case Nigerian authorities managed to arrest Chidiebere in the countries capital where he went to collect money he stolen. However with such scams, arrests are quite rare. Most of these types of scammers manage to avoid capture since many are operating in different countries to their victims.
Nigerian romance scams can be particularly damaging to their victims, and not only because of the financial loss. Victims establish a relationship with the criminals and given that many victims may be especially lonely or vulnerable, learning that they have been conned can be a difficult reality to face.
Be wary of these sorts of scams, not just for yourself but for the people you have in your life who may be vulnerable or susceptible to such types of crime. These scammers are unscrupulous and will defraud as much money from their victims as possible.