Frumpy has asked me to do some writing about my experiences. I hope I don't bore you to tears, but it will be quite a lengthy essay. I will have to submit in installments.
In the 8 or more years since I started tracking these scammers, I have come to know a few of them as well as anyone can know someone on another continent via the internet. I've managed to pry enough information from a few and piece together what I think is a pretty accurate profile of the scam and its scammers.
We call them gangs, I call what they do a criminal operation. They have a boss (who probably has financial backers) who sets up a boiler room bank of computers in cubicles that in the last few years have become laptops. Sometimes it's an apartment they all share and their boiler room is a bedroom or a front room where they all congregate.
One scammer I played with was a Nigerian student on visa in Malaysia. He shared an apartment with 6 other students and they took turns sleeping shifts in the beds. When they weren't sleeping, they were working 24/7. He'd told his buddies he was really in love with me but he never told them he was feeding me information (he didn't really know he was). On the other hand, he had no clue I was baiting him and stringing him along. His co-workers were angry that he chatted with me while he was scamming others, so they'd try to harass him and embarrass him and me. They liked to flash me, moon me, or walk naked through our web cam chats. They were like immature, juvenile boys. This is why I call them boys (plus I know they hate the term). I recorded them and at one time planned to blackmail them like they do their victims (not for money though, but for revenge), but I decided I didn't want that crap on my computer so I deleted it all. It was enough, the education that I got from them.
I'm most educated on how they scam women (because I am one), but they are just as proficient at scamming men, and they do, but with men they have a different approach. For women they choose a white male picture that is more or less ageless. One that could be any age between 45 and 59. Fairly fit, having hair with a little gray at the temples maybe, and posed in a nice head shot and a few vacation or relaxing photos. One with young children is a bonus. Military members are the favorite because American women respect, admire and trust soldiers. They used to use male models a lot more than they do now, but that backfired on them when ordinary women smelled a rat when a good looking guy came onto them and the modeling pics became overused and easy to find.
So let's start with one 'boy' I'll call Chibuke. On a dating website, about 5 years ago, I got a message from him that said, "Hello pretty, How are you doing,you beauty captivate me i must confess and i want know you mor better, about your profile though i am new to the dating site." His profile was this guy: http://www.focushawaii.com/model-talent/joby/joby.htm
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I knew he was Joby from Focus Hawaii Modeling Agency, so of course there was never a doubt that this was a scam boy behind this.
I wrote him back that I thought he was very good looking but that I thought he was too young for me. I like to play a little hard to get for these guys so that they don't get twigged to the bait early in the game. Of course he wrote me that he was 45 (my age was stated as 50) and age was just a number anyway. It didn't matter.
Now before I go any farther, I suppose I should tell a little about myself and how I bait. First, much to the consternation of other more experienced baiters, I use my own picture. I am 61 years old. I can easily pass for 50, though. I usually just have one head shot, sometimes I'll add a full body shot, but I never use family or vacation pictures. I don't even use any location pics. I do this because I do not like using anyone's image without permission - especially if it's mocking the real picture owner. Some baiters like to use a picture of a homely woman so that they won't get hits from real men. I am single and I don't mind hits from real men.
Second, I use a whiny, contentious, or obnoxious profile story so that real men either know I'm joking or avoid me all together. I even put a warning to scammers at the end. In all the years I have done this, only one scammer ever wrote me about the warning. He wrote me something rude in pidgin English. Still I get hundreds of contacts from scammers, like the one mentioned previously. This proves to me that scammers do not read profiles. They just hit on women over 40 and hope they score.
Another reason I like to use my own pictures is so that I can use my web cam. Back when I used to bait a lot, my objective had been to get to the source of the scams. I stupidly thought that I could help them understand the damage they were doing, that maybe I could find real humans who cared about other humans, after all. Also I have an old, poor quality web cam that produces somewhat blurry pictures that even further obscures my age, any background that might identify me and any other people who might inadvertently get in the pictures.
Once I started baiting, it occurred to me that these scammers succeed at love scams because they know they work. They believe in love via the written word. And because they believe, then they also believe that they themselves can fall in love via the internet. They know that the written word is a powerful tool that can change thoughts, manipulate and even control emotions. If this were not so, there would be no books, no great literature, no written media at all. Even religious scriptures would not exist. I determined that if they believed, then I could use that belief to my advantage against them.
Now you might be understandably skeptical that a 60 year-old white woman could realistically engage a 20 something year-old African boy in a romantic relationship, as I was at first also. But on several baits, I believe this occurred because of two other great influencing factors that make these scams work - hopes and dreams.
Once Chibuke (who was pretending to be some name like Roberts Johns), and I had exchanged several emails I asked him to Skype with me. At first he was always too busy with his important consturction (sic) job. Then he claimed that his web cam was broken but I frequently turned my web cam on for him though, to establish that I was real. He seemed to enjoy watching me and a few times he did suggest that I disrobe (which of course I never do), but I always cut my video short to just one or two minutes, saying that it was too awkward since I could not see him.
A little hobby that I have is sketching and drawing. I like to draw little pictures of things as kids ask me to, like bunnies, cars, funny monsters and stuff. I also like to do caricatures of people, so I played with Roberts (Chibuke) and did a few little sketches for him as he asked. I showed them to him on my web cam. Then I did a caricature of Joby, the picture he was using. At first he didn't recognize who it was but when he did, he wasn't interested. It was at this point that I began working to out him.
Now bear in mind that Chibuke is a composite of at least 5 different boys that I baited, manipulated and used as my Guinea pigs. But none of these boys were easy to out. They are deeply ashamed and embarrassed of who they are and what they do. And they cling to their dream of getting rich AND finding love. Add to that, that white women are very attractive to them for the wealth, power and freedom they represent and they are also incredibly intimidated about revealing their true selves. It often took days of manipulating, browbeating, threatening (that I would disappear on them) and pleading with them before they reluctantly turned on their web cams.
A typical outing conversation with a boy would be:
Me: You don't like the picture I drew of you? I'll do another, BRB.
Boy: No, don bother. Draw a car.
Me: I could I suppose, but I really want to please you. None of your pictures seem to capture your sweet, loving personality like I know you. I want to keep trying for that. I wish your web cam worked. I know I could do better if I could see you. I love the things you say to me.
Boy: Baby I really am need some food stuffs here.
Me: Yes, I know. Hang on just a bit longer and I will have a big check to cash and we can be together (my back story is the divorce settlement is almost ready).
Then I show the scam boy a sketch I did of Will Smith. I tell him I am so in love with Will Smith, he's so hot - but he's already married. He asks me if I like black men. I answer, "Oh yeah! How could a woman not love a man who looks like chocolate? But you're nice looking too, honey. I just wish we could be together now so I could see you in person. You are so much more open and loving than your pictures show. I am in love with your heart and soul, not your image."
To be continued . . .