Home Advice & How-ToSafety Rigged Game: Watch Out for the Oil Rig Romance Scam
Home Advice & How-ToSafety Rigged Game: Watch Out for the Oil Rig Romance Scam

Rigged Game: Watch Out for the Oil Rig Romance Scam

by Nick Marshall

One of the more creative scams to pop up in inboxes within the past few years centers around oil rig workers.  That’s not a profession most of us typically know much about, beyond the fact that it’s dangerous — oil rig workers are seven times more likely to be killed on the job than other professionals — and hard work.  

But you don’t need to study up on the oil rig industry to protect yourself.  The workers in these scams are fictitious, and the biggest risk they face is being caught by law enforcement.  Here’s what to look for.  

What Is an Oil Rig Scam?

The oil rig fraud is a sophisticated and imaginative spin on the classic romance scam.  It starts with an unsolicited friend request or DM from a supposedly lonely oil rig worker in search of the companionship or love that their surroundings deny them.

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Things may be intense at first, although the oil rig worker never seems to be able to commit to a phone or video call due to their isolated location or work schedule.  Nevertheless, once trust is established, a sudden “emergency” will occur and the victim is asked to send funds immediately to cover medical treatment, travel or the price of a ticket to meet in person.  Sometimes, imaginary family members or colleagues of the fictitious oil rig worker will get in touch to apply pressure or campaign on their behalf. 

What’s the Catch?

There is no oil rig; there is no strong but sensitive roughneck; and there is most certainly no emergency.  Instead, there may be a whole team of fraudsters working the scam, posing as individual characters in the narrative.  Ironically, these scammers pretending to be isolated workers often target lonely victims, sourced through research on social media.  Why do they choose oil rig workers as their cover? 

  • The emergency gambit is more plausible.  Oil rigs are dangerous places. 
  • It gives them the excuse to be unreachable by video or phone.  Most oil rigs block cellular service around hazardous areas. 
  • Oil rig workers appeal to a certain romantic stereotype that can be easy to fall for. 

Spot the Signs of an Oil Rig Scam

The first red flag should be a comparative stranger asking for money, and an oil rig worker at that.  The average salary for an offshore drilling consultant ranges from $143K to $305K a year and all accommodation, food and transport are covered.  Why would they need the financial help of someone who is not a long-term friend or family member?  

Other warning signs to look out for include: 

  • They’re never available for video chat.  Oil rigs are offshore, not lunar.  There’s no reason why a genuine oil rig worker can’t talk occasionally.  
  • They ask for gift cards or money transfers.  Untraceable, non refundable payment methods are a dead giveaway.  
  • They declare their love surprisingly quickly. 
  • Their supposed social media profile has infrequent status updates, not much of a timeline and some noticeable spelling and grammatical mistakes. 

How To Protect Yourself

Treat any oil rig worker you find in your inbox as a catfish until you can establish otherwise.  To confirm that your new paramour is who they say they are, try plugging in the information you do now about them into a people search tool like Spokeo.  You can use our reverse phone lookup or reverse email address search tool to double check that the contact information you have for your oil rig worker isn’t actually associated with someone else.  It would also be wise to run their profile photo (or any photos they’ve sent you) through a Google reverse image search.  Most of these scams recycle the same profile photos of bearded men against a stormy backdrop, making it relatively straightforward to expose identities that have been cloned.