KANSAS CITY, Mo. — A 24-year-old Nigerian romance scammer has switched sides and is now helping victims who are being taken to the cleaners by fake lovers.
“Just send me the conversation between two people,” said Chris, who spent five years scamming people online. “I read (the conversation) and I can tell whether it’s a scam or not.”
Scamming is big business in Nigeria, even for college graduates like Chris who told FOX4 Problem Solvers that legit jobs are almost impossible to find unless your family is connected.
Chris, who posed online as a middle-aged white American, estimated that he made about $50,000 scamming women who were looking for love. That’s an enormous amount of money in a country where the average monthly paycheck for a college graduate is $100.
Chris said he finally stopped scamming after he learned that one of his victims, a 62-year-old Kentucky woman, had cancer. He said that experience awakened his conscience and got him out of the business.
Now he works for a California company called Social Catfish, which for a monthly fee, helps people determine whether they are being scammed.
Rebecca D’Antonio also helps people determine whether they have fallen victim to a scam. She said she knows the tricks scammers pull because she was once a victim herself.
“I was scammed off of a dating site seven years ago,” D’Antonio said.
“Matthew was a single father. He had been married before. His wife had died from cancer.”
Or so D’Antonio thought.
She said Matthew convinced her to leave the dating site and continue to chat on Facebook Messenger. That was her first of many mistakes.
She said Matthew was a highly trained, well-rehearsed scammer who even called her regularly on the phone. He explained away his slight accent by saying he had grown up in Australia, but was now living in Maine, just a few hours from D’Antonio’s Massachusetts’s home.
Plus, Matthew told her he’d soon be locating to her state, right after he returned from a business trip to Africa. That’s when their romantic conversations turned financial.
“The credit card he had used for his expenses had stopped working,” D’Antonio said she was told by Matthew. He was desperate for help because he needed to buy food and pay his hotel bill, but he couldn’t hold of anyone at the credit card company or his bank. Could she cover the cost?
She wired him a few hundred dollars. But his trip dragged out for several more months and he kept asking her for more and more money.
“I ended up losing about $100,000 and I ended up having to file for bankruptcy,” D’Antonio said.
She seriously thought about ending her life and even told that to Matthew.
“He said very cold, very matter of fact, ‘Well, you have to do what you have to do’.”
That’s when she knew she’d been scammed. Now D’Antonio volunteers with an organization called Scam Haters United. It helps people for free who believe they or someone they love has been the victim of a romance scam.
Among the clues:
- Scammers will never show you their face – not even on a video call.
- Scammers discourage you from telling your friends or family about the relationship.
- Scammers always ask for money.
D’Antonio said she’s happy with her life now, but even seven years later she still receives messages from romance scammers. She now knows never to respond.
“They can’t manipulate silence,” she said.
If you think you’re being scammed, contact Scam Haters United (a free service) , Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology (charges a monthly fee) or view here for more tips.