Is it illegal to cheat the fraudsters?

Police warn of cyber fraudsters : The criminal game with love

"Love is a strange game," says Connie Francis' popular hit. But sometimes a strange - namely criminal - game is played with her. And this also on the Internet, as the police officers of the federal states are finding out more and more frequently. The phenomenon is called "romance scamming", which in German means something like "love cheating". The perpetrators seek contact with women and men via the Internet, for example via social networks. You build up a relationship of trust over a longer period of time, fool the victims into believing that they are in love with only one goal: to exempt them financially later. In individual cases, the perpetrators even did not shy away from "extortionate kidnapping", according to the state and federal police crime prevention department. These scams have also become known in Berlin. How many victims there have been so far is not known, according to a police spokesman, as these acts are not recorded statistically.

Scheme of fraud

The perpetrators' scam is always similar: the fraudsters can get their e-mail addresses or the later victims directly via dating sites on the Internet and social networks. An invitation to chat often serves as a lure. You write either in pretty good English or in German.

According to the police, the victims are sent poor quality pictures of their Internet acquaintances because they were obtained illegally. Except for women: "They prefer to lure their victims with beautiful photos in which they can often be seen lightly dressed," says the police crime prevention department. The "scammers" build trust in acquaintances and then soon shower them with oaths of love. They are curious and want to know as much as possible about their new contact: hobbies, ex-partners, children, friends - belief in God also plays a major role, the police said.

At some point the perpetrators, who are mostly based in West African countries, speak virtually of their business trips and the family difficulties that their relatives have in African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana or Senegal. In some cases, however, the perpetrators also have connections to Russia or Southeast Asia. "Women often pretend to live in Eastern European, Southeast Asian or South American countries," the police said. In their alleged plight, the fraudsters then ask their virtual love affairs for money - and get it because the victim has already established an emotional bond. If the victim does not pay, the scammers use another method: They send checks that are forged and ask the "loved one" to redeem them in Germany.

The loot scheme: lonely, financially secure singles

The perpetrator gangs target men and women living alone - regardless of age. The main thing is that you are financially secure.

In the past year, the investigators also registered a particularly violent variant of "romance scamming": "Men in Germany had an alleged love affair with a Senegalese woman via the Internet and were invited to visit the woman in her African homeland "said the police. Once there, the men actually met their supposed love affair, but were then brought into a precarious situation. An alleged husband and other people accused the victim of adultery who had traveled there, "beating him up and demanding a payment for reparation. The victims were only released after relatives in Germany had paid up to five-figure sums".

A victim was cheated of 80,000 euros

How high the sums are that the victims transfer to their supposed loved ones varies. In the cases that were processed by Berlin investigators, amounts ranging from several hundred euros to 80,000 euros were usually transferred or handed over in an individual case.

It is not easy for the investigators to get to the backers. The problem: The contact takes place almost exclusively on the Internet. According to German law, "tracing back" is only possible for a few days, said a police spokesman. If foreign servers are used - and this is usually the case - lengthy requests for legal assistance are also required to locate the IP. However, this has so far "in no case led to the investigation of suspects," said a police spokesman.

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