Ghanaian youths are gaining notoriety for the country in connection with internet scams. ADM is daily inundated with sad stories from abroad of how men who believe they are getting the love of their lives end up being bilked of huge sums of money. The following questions are posed to people living abroad who are love sick.
Have you fallen in love online? Do you have any online girlfriend? Have you exchanged photos with them? Do they look like real?
Did they send genuine looking documents?
Did they ask you for some money to come over to you?
Did you give them money?
If your answer to any two of these questions is "Yes" then you might be dealing with an online scammer.
ADM decided to follow through a complaint sent in by a love sick man in the UK who said he had been fooled into sending cash to a lady he fell in love with on the Internet, Following the scent he provided, ADM investigations led to a ring of young men and women in Ghana, who create false profiles on dating sites to defraud unsuspecting single men looking for love from overseas.
These young people apart from using semi-nude photographs of different ladies to lure unsuspecting men, especially widowers and lonely men, also fake birth certificates, passports and visas to convince their victims that they are genuine.
In the case of the complainant from the UK, who sent more than £1, 200, apart from booking a BA flight for his newfound "wife" to join him, she never surfaced to consummate the "marriage"!
The relationship began after the exchange of a few emails. He received various documents including what looked like family photos from his "lover" to make him believe that she was genuine. Little did he know that his online girlfriend was a male!
ADM investigations have since led to the arrest of two young men and their female collaborators whose photographs were used in faking two Ghanaian passports and a UK visa to defraud the love sick Britisher.
The four suspects are Kwabena Owusu Gyamfi, 31, shopkeeper, Baba Iddrisu, 17, student, Amanda Dishneill, 21, student, and Rahmatu Adamu, 27, a volunteer working with BasicNeeds Ghana, an international NGO. They have all confessed to the crime and pleaded for leniency.
When the ADM reporter, with the help of the police, got into the suspects' fraudulent mailboxes, it came to light that they had made contacts with hundreds of unsuspecting men, some of whom had been sending cash and birthday gifts.
They are assisting the police in investigations, especially with regards to the fake birth certificates, passports and visas
Online dating scammers always create false personal profiles and make contact with their victims via an online dating agency or a specialized chat room.
They often say that they are seeking romance or a soul mate but are really out to steal not only your heart but your cash too.
Scammers can sign up to online dating agencies or chat rooms just like anyone else. Many online dating sites allow anyone to join for free, and they usually do not screen their members. They take advantage of the anonymity of the internet to create the profile of your perfect match and make any number of promises to attract you and cause you to open up to them.
How to identify them
They make unnecessary demands. The scammer will surely ask for your money, though this will not happen immediately - however, before long the scammer will ask for financial help for any number of reasons. Almost always, they will ask you to send money using an untraceable source such as a telegraphic money transfer.
The following is a slightly edited communication the ADM reporter had with a near victim in Germany:
"Hello Iddrisu ! Thank You for the warning you gave me as "Linda" and sorry I was so rough at first. I am a lonely man from Germany and so searched for a soul mate at the website "www.afrointroductions.com ", I like the African women so this seemed the right site to me. But soon pretty girls contacted me and during the first chat after just a few minutes asked me to send them either money or, as in the case of "Linda", to send a ticket and visa to enter Germany. With that fake Linda I instantly knew that somebody wants just my money, what I didn't know was that "she" was in reality a man. Thanks again for telling me!
On the same website there is another girl from Ghana that seems to be a fake as well, her "name" is Owusu, or Lisa Gyamfi, her member number at afrointroductions is 520698. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org, her yahoo messenger name also... On her profile at afrointroductions is a picture of a very beautiful girl, to be honest for me just breathtaking and a dream of a pretty girl. I send her a message and was so happy when she answered and gave me her e-mail address. But when we chatted for the first time, after a couple of minutes she asked me to send her an iPod ( at least 10 Gb ), which is a very expensive toy for my budget. When I told her I would like to visit her in Ghana she still wanted me to send her that bloody iPod. I asked her for her address but she said she didn't have a postal address at the time.
Also she didn't have a telephone, but, what made me suspicious was that she claimed to have her own computer at home. When I asked to chat with me with a webcam so I could see her, of course she didn't have a webcam and asked me to send her one. Then I asked her to send me a picture of her and she sent me the same picture as in her profile on afrointroductions. She said she didn't have any more pictures at the time. When we chatted the next time she said that she made some research at the customs and in order to get the parcel with the iPod through she will need 100,- Euro, and of course asked me to send her the money. Then I had enough. For me she is obviously a fake and is looking for money not for love. I may be wrong but you have to admit that everything looks like a fraud.
If you make any investigations concerning her I would be glad to hear from you what the real story is. I send you her picture in the attachment. When you study it you will agree that this girl is a real beauty but just maybe younger than 32.
With best regards" (name and address provided).
He got to his senses early and escaped the trap. One common reason scammers give for why they need your help include: "I want to meet you but I don't have enough money to travel to see you" as was in the case of the complainant from the UK who ended up booking an Accra-London flight for his scammer.
This victim, a 66-year old lonely man confined to a wheelchair due to multiple sclerosis, who was looking for a genuine caring relationship which could have resulted in marriage, is now disillusioned with African girls on the Internet and has resolved to remain a bachelor.
It may be unfair to consider all pretty African or Ghanaian girls on the Internet are swindlers, but any man who decides to fall in love with them does so at his own risk? There are reputable online dating or chat services that have "acceptable" guidelines but the question is how do you determine which isn't, especially when smitten by love?! One such person recently sent the pathetic email below to ADM, parts are slightly garbled but the message is clear:
"Why can't they clean up this scamming of males and females who have lost a loved one and are trying to begin a new life again?
It seems that in Ghana and Nigeria this practice runs rampant. My example: I have been talking to a woman who says she is Mildred Simpson of Achimota, Accra.
We have been talking for over 2 months now. Of course there is always the asking for money at sometime in the chatting.
Now the amazing thing is I not only have one Mildred, now there are two and both are saying the other is a fake one.
But all ask for money. Money for a hospital bill, backed by a Dr. Richard John of Motorway Clinic. Is he real too? Not sure. The bill he sent me by fax sure looks fake.
All in all they capture one's heart and you are afraid to let go or do anything about it.
I hired a Private Investigator to look into this woman and the address she gave. He said nothing exists. Yet, she has brought to my mind, his one proof was her Voter ID, he said it is in black and white and not full color.
The black and white has just writing not typed numbers and name. Come on anyone could make these. But the ID I sent him was full color and he cut it up. I have asked about others and they say their ID is in color. So did I throw $400 US dollars to a scam in the Private Investigator business too? I think a good question.
I would like the necessary authorities to get more involved in arresting these people who are defrauding single fathers or mothers out of their money. I am a single father as my wife passed away on May 7, 2007 and I am raising my 6 yr old myself. What makes it really bad, is these people will even make your daughter love them as well in order to get you in deeper.
If your reporters or anyone who has an honest bone in their body, can help bring these people to justice I would be ever so happy.
I know I will never recover what I have sent over but knowing they are paying for their crimes would be enough, I think.
Thank you for reading this email and what is going on to ruin any liking of visiting Ghana by many people all over the world not just the US."
If it is any comfort, ADM's undercover work has at least led to the arrest of 4 scammers.