Tuesday, November 19, 2013

If you ever thought that getting ripped off by your online date or by finding out that he or she was not who she claimed to be was a shock, prepare yourself for the new and improved scams!  Internet criminals are getting more creative all the time, and finding new ways to drain your bank account is what they do best.  One of the newest schemes in online scams involves death threats and blackmail, and they are highly effective in getting victims to cooperate.  Romance scams are reaching new levels, and law enforcement in Johannesburg say crime syndicates operated by illegal immigrants from Nigeria are leading the way in South Africa.  The growing fraud is causing serious harm to South Africa's reputation.

Despite being Africa's most advanced country, South Africa has been ranked among the highest risk in the world in this 2012 Cyber Crime Report, right after Russia and China. This country has become not only a focus of attacks, affecting local people with phishing and fake websites, but it is also a school for many others on the arts of scamming.  Illegal immigrants often come from West Africa for a better quality of life, and then create shop in South Africa, where they can apply Nigerian crime tactics from South Africa, where victims perceive less risk.  Nigerians are migrating all over the world in fact, conducting fraud from Malaysia, U.K. and even the U.S.  Although it is hard to account for losses, 2013 will see significantly higher losses as cyber-crime continues to grow at a rapid pace.

Online scams continue to be very lucrative for fraudsters. Millions of dollars from love scams are sent every month from the U.S., U.K. and Australia to Nigeria and Ghana. West Africa is the hot zone for cyber criminals, and it is the highest risk zone in the world.  The problem is, criminals are now exporting their activity and working with accomplices in other countries, so a Nigerian scam, for example, can now take place from the U.K. or South Africa, or nearly anywhere on the globe.  Most of the con artists continue to be the nice person you meet on an online date, who suddenly has financial trouble and needs help. But, some fraudsters have found that threatening can be a more effective way of getting what they want. Imagine how would you feel if you suddenly received a death threat or blackmail from someone you met online?  Ever do a video chat or send a nude photo?  This is the perfect blackmail, and criminals can threaten you that your entire family and co-workers will see the content if you don't pay.

Criminals are use online dating and social media sites as a means to obtaining your personal information. Once they have your name, address and information about your work and family, they can start with the threats, or even steal your identity if you share too much online. The less they know about you, the safer you are.  Investigators say a background check is your best protection.

The chances of death threats and blackmail to materialize are low, but the panic is greater than anything and people end up sending the money. If you are a user of online dating sites, there are a couple of things you can do. First, protect your personal information and share less. Do not share anything that may be used to harm you. Second, if you are getting serious about someone, verify you are not being a victim of a South Africa scam.  Contact a reputable investigation firm with experienced investigators in Cape Town or Johannesburg, so you know the person you're talking to is the real.

 A. Hathaway
© 2013 A Hathaway

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This copyrighted article was written and published by the editor and site author, A. Hathaway, or other guest private investigator, expert or contributor as noted.