Lonely Bahamians falling victim to “Online romance scam”
Fraudsters in other countries are preying on single, divorced and widowed Bahamians who are desperately seeking companionship by striking up a long distance relationship with them online and convincing the victim to send them money.
The online scam is being perpetrated on Bahamians who are deceived into believing that they are in relationships, according to the Financial Crime Investigations Branch. Some scams have gone as far as a marriage proposal.
One Bahamian was deceived into believing she was dating a Military man who needed money to be released.
The victims are eventually defrauded out of thousands of dollars by the fraudsters after having gained their trust.
The lonely victims are being contacted via social media by individuals they do not know but they decide to engage in conversations with them.
After numerous conversations, these situations can ultimately lead to a relationship where the victims develop feelings for the other person, according to police who have launched an investigation into the online scam.
“Sadly though, the perpetrators are using false identities and stolen photos to pretend to be someone else (military personnel etc.).”
“Eventually the fraudster would ask for assistance with funding for various reasons, to which the victim complies.”
In one instance, police said the fraudster pretended to be military personnel stationed overseas and claimed that he needed money sent to his base to have him released.
“The money is usually sent using local money transfer agencies to various foreign countries.”
The fraudsters can be very ‘smooth’ and convincing in the manner they communicate with the victims and gain their trust.
“We cannot say at this time how these victims are targeted or chosen. However, it would appear that an ideal victim would be someone who is either single, divorced, widowed, or in search of some form of companionship,” according to police.
In some instances, police say persons in these positions are distracted by their desire for happiness and companionship and are unable to recognize that they are being scammed. In certain cases, there were commitments made to marry each other which can further justify to a victim that their actions were for a worthy cause.
Police warned members of the public to be cautious when conversing with persons over social media, especially if the other party is not known to them.
“You should be very suspicious of anyone who asks you to forward money to them, especially when the destination is a foreign country. We encourage persons to report any suspicious online activity to the police so that the matter can be properly investigated,” according to police.