Valentines Day: Don't fall for the illusion of love

Young woman sitting on the jetty
20-02-13 16:24 | Sustainability

Love scams are usually executed online on Facebook or a dating website. The scammer may be “a soldier on a foreign mission”, “an engineer travelling a lot abroad” or anything in between. 

The scammer contacts his victim and they start exchanging messages and talking over the phone. The contact may continue for months and soon the scammer will start talking about love and a future together. After a while, the scammer starts asking for money for various purposes, such as for hospital bills and travels.

Tips:

  • Be aware of anyone who asks you to send them money.
  • Never send money to a person whom you have never met and who starts asking you for money after you connected with the person in question online.
  • If you find out that you have been scammed, inform the bank and report the scam to the police. You aren't alone in having fallen victim for a love scam and unfortunately you aren't likely to be the last victim either.

/Nordea's Fraud Awareness team

This is how a love scam may unfold:

It was one of those bright yet crisp autumn mornings. Anna sat at the kitchen table and was having a cup of coffee. This was once again one of those mornings that she would have liked to share with someone, chattering away and enjoying the company.

She opened her laptop to read the news and see the funny pictures that her friends had liked on Facebook just as she had done so many times before. While reading the news, Anna got a Facebook notification that someone had sent her a friend request.

“A friend request?” Anna thought and clicked the request to open it. The request seemed to come from a handsome-looking man named Joseph Smith. Anna felt thrilled and clicked the man’s name to see his full profile.

In his Facebook profile Joseph Smith said that he worked for the US Air Force in Arkansas and he had added several photos. On one of the photos, captioned with the title “The latest apple of my eye”, Joseph posed with a brand-new, expensive-looking car. There were also a good number of photos from different kinds of exotic trips. Anna smiled and decided to accept the friend request: a good-looking guy who apparently knows how to enjoy life, why not!

A couple of hours later Anna’s Facebook beeped with a new message. She secretly hoped the message would be from her new friend Joseph and was pleased to see that it was indeed from him. Joseph wrote in a very pleasant manner and was open about his life and dreams of finding someone special as a life companion. He shared his rough experiences while working in the air force, and Anna felt empathy for him.

“A wonderful, outgoing man who is not ashamed of showing his vulnerability”, Anna thought and continued writing to Joseph, feeling herself being drawn deeper and deeper into their discussions. 

A month had now passed since Joseph had contacted Anna the first time, and their relationship was already blossoming. Anna confessed to be infatuated with Joseph and was delighted to hear the feeling was mutual. Everything felt good and Anna’s highlights of the day were writing and exchanging ideas with Joseph about their common future.

One morning Anna received a message from Joseph. “My dear, I would so much like to visit you, but my account is in the army’s name and I cannot withdraw any funds from it in the US. I know it’s silly, but this is how it is here. This is an awful situation and it feels so frustrating to be here, far away from you. You’re the love of my life and I’d do anything for you – you know that, don’t you? You have been there for me even though the distance between us is so long ... But let’s not think of that as an obstacle for our love”.

Anna was bursting with affection and replied to Joseph by asking how much the flight tickets would cost and whether she could help with the costs. Joseph said the price would be around three thousand dollars. Anna promised to send him the money as soon as he had given her his account details. Joseph delivered his account details to Anna within an hour and she transferred the amount through her netbank. “Thank you, honey, soon we’ll be able to be together”, Joseph replied when Anna told him that the transfer had been made. After a couple of days, Anna asked Joseph on Facebook whether the money had arrived.

“No ... are you sure that you sent the amount with the correct details?” Joseph asked, and Anna confirmed that she had done so. The next day, Joseph told Anna that the money was about to be transferred to his account, but that in order for him to get it, the sender would have to pay a special fee for the money to be credited to his account.

“Sweetie, luckily this is not a big amount, as five hundred dollars is nothing if you think of what it makes possible”, Joseph wrote and Anna transferred the amount almost instantly to the foreign account number given by Joseph earlier.

After two days, Joseph sent Anna a new Facebook message. “Oh dear, I had got the sum wrong: in fact, they are asking for a thousand dollars to be able to credit my account. I feel terribly bad to ask you for another five hundred dollars to raise the amount needed. I promise to repay it all the minute I get there, honey.” Anna transferred the five hundred dollars and then told Joseph she had made the transfer.

The next day, Anna sat by her kitchen table as usual and opened her laptop, hoping that Joseph had sent her a message that the money had finally arrived and that he had bought a flight ticket to Finland.

Then Anna’s phone rang. The caller worked in Nordea's fraud unit and wanted to know if Anna was aware of whom she had transferred money to. Anna answered that yes, she knew: to her boyfriend Joseph in the US.

The caller told Anna that everything was not what it seemed to be and that this “Joseph’s” interest towards Anna was nothing but financial. Anna started to feel irritated that some stranger could outright say this to her without knowing about her long talks and correspondence with Joseph and what the matter was all about: they were in love! During the phone call, Anna was told the facts about the situation and that she would never get her money back and that “Joseph” had no intention of flying to Finland to meet her.

She was also informed of how love scams usually work and that there had been many other cases similar to hers. After the call, Anna kept on writing to Joseph, but she realised over time that Joseph was all talk and no action. Soon Anna stopped replying to Joseph’s messages and accepted the fact that they would never see each other and that she would never get back the money she had sent to him.

All in all, in her yearning for love, Anna had sent close to nine thousand euros to “Joseph”.

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