At Global Investigations, we are taking a lead and direct approach on the scamming schools – popping up across Europe and the UK – that target many vulnerable people with fanciful and fictitious dialogues.
These types of scams are mainly based around romance and generally target individuals who are lonely and exposed. These victims are sometimes elderly and not aware or pc savvy enough to know the difference between a scammer and a genuine person.
The Harsh Effects of Romance Scams
Unfortunately, the hurt caused by these scams can be so devastating it can lead to some victims contemplating suicide and, in worst cases, taking their own lives.
Our investigators here at Global have worked with people all over the world that have lost thousands and in some cases millions to these people. Most of the time it is all they have, and they have nothing left, not even for groceries and certainly not enough to live on.
They will be at an advanced stage in their life where they are unable to return to work and recuperate their losses. In many cases they are reluctant to go to the authorities due to the pure shame of it and because they know their chances are slim in recovering their losses as well as any arrests being made.
What Is the Government Doing About It?
The Action Fraud department of the government has had some terrible press lately which we are sure you are aware of. Ours and our clients’ dealings with them are pretty much alongside what is written in the press. They seem to act extremely rarely, and we have had many cases where we felt much more could have been done, especially when we have presented them with actual direct information on the perpetrators.
Where Did These Scamming Schools Come From?
Our clients – the unfortunate victims – are usually approached by people pretending to be from the UK or US (English speakers) but are in fact scammers generally based in Nigeria and Ghana.
The Ghanaian scammers are prolific and are known as “sakawa boys”. They are often glorified in the Ghanaian press and often films are made of their successes and their resulting luxurious lifestyles.
They have followed on from the popular Nigerian model where teenage males who are well-spoken and computer literate are recruited. Now they also employ “spotters” in colleges and in the later years of school to pick and poach these young students into their own “classrooms”.
These scamming schools normally consist of a dozen different scammers with good internet facilities, using unregistered laptops that can be easily taken and disposed of. They are trained by the older more experienced scammers that are sometimes seen as role models – particularly in Ghana – leading often lavish lifestyles, driving expensive cars and living in the very best accommodation.
The “teachers” will insist their students nurture their targets, sometimes over many months. They will often send birthday cards, flowers and even send money to the victims, asking them to hold onto their supposed wage or funds whilst their banking issue is being resolved. This is a way of attempting to gain the victim’s trust.
They will learn important, qualifying factors for their chosen national identity such as studying TV and press in the UK or the US and even going as far as to learn phrases and media soundbites.
They use all this information to build trust and convince the victim that they aren’t scammers operating on the other side of the world. We’ve had cases where some scammers try and deceive their victims by saying they are temporarily working in Africa or the Middle East.
They aim to convince their victim that they are solely focused on them and are falling head over heels in love.
The scammers will often be working under a bonus system, receiving a percentage of any successes they can generate, and a majority of their triumphs will go to the head guy at the “school” in question.
The processes that allow them to deceive their targets have risen dramatically in recent months and years. They are now extremely proficient in photoshopping documents, passports and even dubbing videos to make it look like they are the person the victim thinks or hopes they are talking too.
In places like Nigeria, the scammers (known nationally as “yahoo boys”) are coming into an environment where they can see massive financial benefits. Often, they are in a working-class system where there is an approximately 50% unemployment rate in their area for young school leavers and they are desperate to make money fast.
The Ghanaian scammers (“sakawa boys”) are often presented to the Ghanaian public in a different light and some Ghanaians are grateful that these young unemployed boys are off the street and not turning to violent crime. For the most part, they are spending all their time sitting at a laptop or PC with the attitude that “well the westerners took from us, so we are taking it back”.
Scamming Schools in the UK, Europe and the USA
Unfortunately, we are now seeing an explosive rise of these schools being introduced into the UK. They have begun operations here to undertake more of a UK / European element, making the victims think it is a safer bet to assume they are dealing with a real person here in the UK as opposed to an African connection.
We believe the UK government knows this and yet is suppressing or ignoring the information and there is very little being done. The schools are even being instigated on smaller levels in places such as the Philippines, Jamaica, Russia and Ukraine.
In the past, all some victims had to do after being scammed was engage with others online and try and bait these scammers into ridiculing them and embarrassing them, but of course long after they had been successful in taking financial gain from them. There are sites here in the UK and in the USA that are dedicated to baiting the scammers and enticing them into some bizarre stunts, but unfortunately, they are just that and nothing more.
We now know that for the last 2-3 years, the USA has also been riddled with these scammers with some schools actually operating within its borders. Now their tentacles reach far and wide across America. However, there have been some really good and successful arrests made in the recent press and the US government is fighting fire with fire and making some definite in-roads; which is what we want here in the UK.
What Are Global Investigations Doing About It?
Global Investigations Ltd is pushing the Police and the authorities to make changes such as making it harder for scammers to:
- Get a grip on victims online
- Operate and open schools in the UK
- Obtain financial gains even when they are abroad
We have asked for more powers in these things but so far, we have been unsuccessful. We do have the ABI (the Association of British Investigators) on our side and we have recently been given some authorisation to undertake some unorthodox techniques and tricks of ours that have led to direct success in tracing the individuals here or in their country or school.
We have had, and we are hopeful of having meaningful discussions with the EFFC (the Economical Financial Crime Commission) in Nigeria and with some experts there to give us more successes. However, we fully understand we are attempting dangerous work with career criminals hiding behind VPN’s, masked unregistered phones and fancy looking websites.
The good thing is the Nigerians are really desperate to lose this horrible image of them all being racketeers, liars and internet fraudsters and their government has had enough. The arrests are going up and with our new and effective techniques, those figures will rise even further.
How Can I Deal with Romance Scammers?
If you think you are being scammed, we suggest that you take a step back and objectively look into the person you are speaking to online. If everything they say sounds too far-fetched then it probably is an elaborate scam. Do not be fooled by stories of any financial despair, never send any money on the internet to anyone you have never met and cannot verify or speak to in the flesh.
Speak with friends, relatives, social workers and even a good PI. Please do not use an unscrupulous PI agency or Investigator and choose only a recommended firm that is a member of an association such as the ABI (https://www.theabi.org.uk/).
Jack Roberts is the Managing Director of Global Investigations Ltd and has worked in the industry for over 29 years. He has recently been depicted in a crime fiction novel written by the best-selling author Peter James. The book is entitled Dead at First Sight and is purely based on the scamming industry and the rise of the terrible issues it is causing.
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