Romance scams are some of the most common ploys around and they are becoming increasingly difficult to spot.
Online dating scammers have a whole host of tricks and lies they use to get people to trust them, there is even a handbook where scammers can adapt pre-written responses when speaking to their victim.
Social Catfish, an organisation that helps scam victims, obtained the handbook from a Nigerian scam artist.
The book contains dozens of pages of scripts and responses to possible questions, all aimed at gaining sympathy and trust from potential victims.
Just to give you an idea of how in-depth this guide is, the first section offers twenty different ways to say hello to a potential victim.
And if a generic “hey, how are you?” isn’t enough, there is also a hefty list of “flirty/funny” ways to introduce yourself.
They range from super cheesy lines like, “I want this message to be the reason you smile at your screen” and “if you wanted to talk, it’d definitely make my day … or maybe year”, to cringe-worthy ones such as, “I’m willing to risk the cooties if you are” and “rawr means hello in dinosaur. RAWR”.
There are also some just plain weird ones like, “I like how your nose is in the middle of your face. That’s really cute” and “I bet my cat would like you”.
It is in the next section of the handbook where things start to get really creepy. There is a whole host of answers to potential questions victims might ask.
This involves coming up with fake past experiences with online dating, a fake family as well as a made up life history, stance on marriage, religion and being in a long distance relationship.
The scammer starts by asking the other person about their experiences with online dating, they then share their own woeful tale of trying to find love online is a sea of women that “are only looking for sex”.
They even make up an extremely detailed past, with one story being they were born in Scotland but moved to America and became widowed when his wife died of a migraine.
“I was emotionally devastated when my wife died, but I stay firm and strong for my beautiful daughter Lisa,” the manual reads.
The handbook also suggests using a story of childhood hardship of how their dad died when they were a child and their mum raised them on her own before passing away in 2001.
Even the most minute details are mapped out, with pages dedicated to favourite colour, favourite food, hobbies, life goals, favourite movies and music, turn-off, fears and even what superpower they would want to have.
There are 10 pages purely filled with random details about this made up person the scammer is pretending to be and an answer available to any question the victim could potentially ask.
The manual warns scammers not to profess their love to their victim too soon as it may scare them off.
Usually within a week or so of meeting, the scammer will ask their victim for a small amount of money, possibly in the form of a Google Play or iTunes gift card.
When they feel their victim is getting more comfortable the scammers can then choose from numerous long messages to copy and paste into their conversation.
A section titled “WHY WE DON’T MAKE CALLS” offers some excuses scammers can use when if their victims pressure them to talk over the phone or via video chat.
One suggestion revolves around the story that they are on a peace keeping mission in Afghanistan and it would be extremely dangerous to use a phone.
“Sorry I can’t call you because we are not allowed to use mobiles here because the Taliban
insurgents cause (sic) manipulate it to detonate bombs so for security reasons we don’t use
phones … am sorry we can’t talk on phone until am out of here,” the handbook reads.
The suggested conversations get increasingly loving and soppy and the manual even includes a very graphic sex dream supposedly about the victim.
I’ll spare you all of the explicit details but let’s just say the scammer didn’t hold back when writing this part of the handbook.
It is usually around this point that the scammers start to ask for more significant amounts of money as they feel they have gained the trust of their victim.
According to Social Catfish, common excuses for needing money include getting through customs, oil rig repairs, wires of cash to see their children or family back home, medical bills, emergency repairs or supplies or to come and visit.
The organisation advises people who think they may have been a victim of a romance scam to immediately contact the police and report the scammer to the website they have been communicating on.