Letters from a Private Investigator I
Dating Cons in Indonesia
Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) and Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency are seeing more cases of dating cons in Indonesia. Foreigners (especially men) and weak law enforcement are creating an environment in which scammers can operate with very little risk.
Nowadays with the internet and all that brings such as Yahoo Messenger, Skype, WhatsApp and many more social media sites make it possible for anyone to find and develop a relationship and start dating with a person on the other side of the world.
It is sad that whilst most of the people dating online act sincerely, and intense and real feeling do develop, these conditions of sincerity drag the unscrupulous con artists from the gutters. These scam artists have seemed to make it their intention to take money from online victims.
In this article, we will give a brief overview of some of the kinds of dating scams IPIA has come across, how to recognize them, and what to do if you think you are a victim of a dating scam.
So what is a dating con and who are the scammers?
Dating scammers usually fall into one of three categories:
This is usually a female on the face of it who dates several people at the same time, collecting money and gifts from each. These individuals sometimes live with husbands or boyfriends, who help the girl with the scam.
A translation service
This is set up to as a kind of control centre, looking at every interaction with the person they are translating for. Services like these seem to offer great assistance, but in reality they often act as more of a matchmaker, and paid a large amount of money when their client receives a proposal for marriage and another large sum of money upon emigration to the US or other destination country.
A group of con artists
This is really a long sting operation and very dangerous (or rather costly) for the victim. The team try and slowly and systematically draw the victim in.
Their intention is to make the victim (him or her) through the dating process fall in love and then impose ever-increasing demands.
They may ask to pay a dowry to “parents”, buy them a house, help with hospital bills (for a mother for example), invest in a house for the girlfriend.
and victim to share or otherwise part with small and large amount of money.
Examples of dating scams:
As a private investigation firm, IPIA has handled many cases involving dating scams.
We always keep all details of our investigations completely confidential.
As illustration we obtained permission from two of our former clients to summarize the facts of their cases below. We have changed (or not revealed) locations or other identifiable details, but these are actual cases to serve as examples.
Foreign Girlfriend Held Hostage in Indonesia
In this case, the client contacted us to help him assist his girlfriend in Indonesia. He told IPIA he had been chatting online with his girlfriend for a few years, but that she had traveled to a certain city in Indonesia (she did not speak Indonesian) and was now being held hostage by unknown people in this city. She was able to get to the phone occasionally to quickly our client and ask for help, but was otherwise unreachable.
We gathered additional information from the client and learned that with the exception of a few phone calls, his contact with his girlfriend had been entirely through text messages and email. He had been sending her hundreds of dollars every two weeks for the previous year or more. His girlfriend had told him that her parents lived in Africa and the client had therefore sent the money to a man in Africa all that time. When the client provided photos sent to him by his girlfriend, they turned out to be professionally taken modeling photos of a beautiful blonde girl in her early 20s.
We did a quick check of some of the emails and found that they came from Africa, not from the Indonesian city, from which the girlfriend supposedly sent them.
At that point, we advised the client that he did not need to hire us, that the girlfriend probably did not exist. We asked that he give his girlfriend our phone number and ask her to call us aE” that he had given us the money he normally sent to her (of course he had not really) and that we would help her, get her the money and help her leave Indonesia.
She never called IPIA and the client was finally convinced. He had been paying a Nigerian con-man hundreds of dollars for two years. We warned our client that the con-man could try and start using his financial information to steal whatever money he could, now that he knew the he had been found out.
Girlfriend and Man Buy a House Together
This situation is a very common story in Indonesia. There are a few variables but the essence is more or less the same.
The man meets a girl online, travels to her city to meet her and meets her parents. He stays in a hotel for a while before returning to his home country.
The girl now convinces the client to invest in a house in her city and some months later, he returns to visit her, along with cash. On the outside it all looks legitimate as they go with a translator to the real estate sales office and fill out the sales contract in both of their names.
Both sign and all documents are officially stamped. The man pays cash to the property sales person and is given a receipt. The girl keeps the documents, as they need to stay in that country. He returns home, but finds that she is less and less communicative. When she breaks off contact, he hires IPIA.
He has videotape of his visit to purchase the property, along with all parties on tape. We find out that the sales person on the tape were not an employee of their company and that the purchase documents were filed in her name only, with no mention of the client. The girlfriend had since sold the property.
IPIA tracked down the girlfriend and gave her a chance to make things right with the client, or be arrested. She re-opened communication with him, crying and telling him that she was forced to trick him by mysterious unknown parties (a common theme) and begged his forgiveness. Against our recommendation, the client decided to let it go and trust her again (another strange phenomenon, which is not uncommon). She kept up the communication for just long enough to disappear again (with the money of course).
Our client had some legal claims against the real estate development company, where the contract was signed, but the client decides not to pursue that possible remedy. He has not heard from his former fiancee since.
Here are some warning signs.
- emergencies and sudden illness that pop up early and often;
- claims of love that seem just too quick;
- requests for financial assistance;
- photographs that look like they were taken by a professional or copied from the internet. You can check the names of the files to see if they have the same file name structure. Real photos will also usually be larger in size (mb);
- problems with visa or passport that require your assistance;
- problems with people threatening them – translator, bill collector, some other thug;
- inability to reach the person (phone doesn’t work or too expensive, phone always turned off);
- communication only through email and messaging;
- rigid time schedule for contact;
- use of a translation service;
- unwarranted interest in financial information – social security (identity) number, mother’s maiden name, etc.
What should you do if you are a victim of a dating con?
Some scammers are interested in more than just gifts and money from the victim. These scammers will gather information during the “relationship” and use that information to hack credit card and bank accounts and even steal the victim’s identity.
Before confronting the scammer, you should first make a list of what information they have about you. Do they have your social security number and date of birth from an immigration form? Do they have your mother’s maiden name from a conversation? Do they have your banking information from a wire transfer?
First, secure your personal information. Change your passwords. Call your bank and tell them about your fears and as them to put an extra level of security on your account. Get an instant online credit report from all credit bureaus. Confirm that no new accounts have been opened and then have the bureaus flag your credit file, so that you receive a call when new account requests are made.
Now you are ready to confront the dating scammer. You may want to pursue legal action against them and/or recover valuables if any have been stolen. BEPIA can help with that. Talk to us about what information you have about them and we will fill in the blanks and bring them to justice.
Bali Eye Private Investigation Agency (BEPIA) along with our sister agency Indonesia Private Investigation Agency (IPIA) are fully registered Private Investigation Agencies offering private detective and private investigator services to the Private and Business sectors throughout Indonesia and South East Asia.