Ghanaian romance scams are costing Americans millions of dollars each year.
They break your heart, steal your money, and then disappear without a trace. Operating from internet cafés in Ghana, romance fraudsters are conning thousands of Americans looking for love. If you’re new to the world of online dating, here are a few pointers on how to protect yourself.
Ghana Dating Scams: A Billion Dollar Business
Online dating is more popular than ever. At least 15% of American adults use dating sites like OKCupid, eharmony and Tinder, and the number grows every year. You can also check out GhanaWeb to keep an eye on local news.
But for every 100 genuine dating profiles you swipe through on your quest for love, there’s a possibility that as many as 10 you see are fake. Welcome to the shady and costly world of Ghana romance scams.”
Romance scams, like so-called “419 scams” are a form of advance-fee fraud often originating in Nigeria and Ghana. They all work pretty much the same way. The scammer “hooks” their prey with a sob story or a promise of future riches in exchange for money up front. Once money is sent, the scammer cuts all ties and disappears without a trace.
All those promises of love or marriage simply amount to nothing. Since they hide behind phoney profiles and email addresses overseas, they’re virtually impossible to track down. This means there’s usually little that authorities or banks can do to help and recoup the victim’s losses.
In 2016, the FBI reported that losses associated with romance scam complaints had exceeded $230 million. A 20% increase from the previous year. In the West African developing country Ghana, there’s even a name for professional romance scammers. They are called “Sakawa Boys” (after the Ghanaian word for “fraud”).
A Scammer’s Modus Operandi
The scammers invariably follow a similar format. They tend to target more vulnerable individuals like older people and widows and widowers who may be more likely to fall prey to these Ghana scams. Who wouldn’t want to help out a girl in trouble or a handsome soldier looking for help returning home? The scammers seek to exploit their loneliness and generosity by creating fake dating profiles, connecting with unsuspecting singles and ensnaring them in a web of lies.
Spending weeks getting to know their victims and gaining their confidence is a norm
At some point during the Ghana scams, all scammers ask for money. They might claim to have been in an accident, or ask for money to help build a church or aid an ailing relative. By this time the victim will be so blinded by their desire to make a connection that they’re willing to wire money and/or share bank info with the fraudster.
The fact that they’ve they’ve never even met that person face-to-face goes to show just how good the scammers are at manipulation.
Americans can find Ghanaians on any of the major dating sites
Most Americans who create an online relationship with a Ghanaian think they are communicating with someone in the US. It is only after the scammer has created a relationship with the victim does the scammer tell them that they are from Ghana.
The relationship will be anywhere between 1 to 3 months old when the Ghanaian scammer will ask for money, citing any of the reasons mentioned above.
Whatever the reason, the American victim is so involved at this point that they usually send the money after the first request. At this stage of the relationship, both parties have moved on from communicating via app to emailing or texting. And the American has probably also spoken to one of the Ghanaian’s “relatives” and so feel like a part of the family.
Signs It’s a Scam
Refusing to meet in person is a classic sign of a Ghana scam or catfish. That being said, it’s just one of several red flags you may encounter if you’re dealing with a Ghana dating scams.
Here’s a short list of signs that you may be dealing with a con artist:
- “Broken” English, poor grammar or frequent spelling mistakes
- Generic-looking profile picture, usually stolen from elsewhere online
- Avoiding video chat (via Skype or FaceTime) or talking on phone
- Contradictory or vague statements about personal life or pas
The biggest red flag of all is, of course, asking for money. Never, ever, send money online to someone before meeting them.
How to Run a Background Check
If you’ve met someone new online and are feeling suspicious, run a quick background check on their email address against a database. Or, if you were lucky enough to get it, their phone number. Feel free to use this service which can be a quick way to verify someone’s identity.
You might find their name, address history, social media photos and more. Even if they aren’t a scammer, doing background research on anyone you meet online is important for your safety. Especially before sharing personal information or meeting in person.
So long as online dating services are popular in the US, these Ghana romance scams will continue to flourish. The best defense against such Ghana scams is to remember what you’ve read here. And to not send any money to anyone without at least first meeting them. You should at least go on a date before trusting someone right?
It may very well mean the difference between falling in love, and falling for it.