[emotional fraud, a practice well known to internet police

Searching for love or killing their loneliness on the Internet and social networks, thousands of French people fall victim to romance scams. A dedicated team of cyber police investigates and supports these mostly silent victims of fraud.

Few victims dare to file a complaint with the gendarmerie or the police station, most of the time for fear of being judged. The Thise platform, recently created by the Home Office, allows people to lodge a complaint online, from the comfort of their own home. According Captain Sylvain James, head of the Thise device (harmonised processing of investigations and reports on electronic fraud),since March 2022 and the creation of the platform, more than 5,000 complaints have been filedA number far lower than the actual number of victims of romance scams, not everyone is aware of the existence of this platform.

The modus operandi of these fraudsters is known to the police. “Contact often takes place in the evening or at night when the person has finished work and is about to browse the Internet.explains Captain Sylvain James. Typical victim profiles are people in need of affection, often isolated and alone, who go online to meet other people. And this is the starting point: fraudsters go to Instagram, Facebook, but also to various messaging services such as WhatsApp, Messenger or Telegram.“.

READ ALSO: Online fraud: “I paid over 20,000 euros”. Nathalie, 51, victim of a false love story

The first step of these criminals is to anonymize their internet connection in order to confuse the authorities as to the origin of these scams. “Most people use proxies in internet cafes or someone else's internet box. Using a VPN (virtual private network – Editor's note) is also common“, explains Captain James. Then they go on Facebook and target 10, 20 to 30 people. In this pile, there will inevitably be people who will fall for it“.

Their methodology is precise and well-crafted. “They are not going to waste time with a potential victim who is a bit reluctant or giving them a hard time. To make people believe even more in the accuracy of their profile, scammers use ready-made sets of photos or videos, or even actors who will be paid for them. Sometimes they happen to usfind the same photos in many different situations”, reveals leader Sylvain James.

READ ALSO: Internet fraud: Who are the “shepherds”, the experts in all kinds of Internet fraud?

This was the case of Nathalie Gillet with the man named Marin Burcea. Many scammers are impersonating this man, a former sniper and corporal in the French Legion, according to Romanian TV channel Antena Sport. Many photos and videos of this former legionnaire are being used by scammers. According to the head of the Thise platform, their project is “to call, stay in touch with the victimto respond to this emotional dependence, to show empathy, to listen, to talk about the problems of the victims with the aim, little by little, of creating ONE Link“.

Most members of these organizations make these romance scams their business.

Captain Sylvain James

Head of Thise Platform

Quickly, questions about money entered the conversation. “Through phone or video conversations, the scammer will always talk about a complicated situation from his side: it could be hospital, prison, customs, inheritance, as many possible and imaginary scenarios. With the emotional bond already established, the victim will try to help them“, explains Captain James. Especially since the victims never meet anyone, the scammer will systematically find excuses to trick the person. Generally, the victims receive a message like “I'm very happy to see you, I'm really looking forward to meeting you” , so finally, never meet with excuses: “My papers didn't come”.

There are different types of perpetrators of these crimes, says Captain Sylvain James. “These are, most of the time, criminal organizations that are behind it. Most members of these organizations they make these romance scams their business. Some people have been kidnapped in Asia and then recruited to work on farms where this type of scam is organizedso under pressure. These organizations make it a real business“.

Injuries to victims are varied and varied. This can range from around twenty euros on a prepaid card to astronomical sums, “up to 910,000 eurosreveals Captain James. It is not unusual for people to steal more than 100,000 euros, we have it several times a month, or even every week.“.

Scammers can also go even further beyond romance scams, such as online financial scams. “They say to their victim: Hey, I have a great plan for you to do invest and you will walk away with 200, even 300% profits, in fake ifyoursinvestments financial.

► ALSO READ: Emotional internet scam: Veronique and Anna's long descent into hell

Requests for money using payment methods such as prepaid cards, international transfers or cryptocurrencies are most often sources of fraud. And the financial consequences for victims can be very serious. Less than three weeks ago, Thise platform concentrated a complaint from a woman who lost more than 300,000 euros, and who was never suspected.

At the criminal level, the fraudsters, nicknamed “shepherds”, risk up to seven years in prison.for organized gang fraud, on the condition that he be tried and imprisoned in France“, explains Captain Sylvain James. The main difficulty facing the authorities is that these fraudsters live abroad, particularly in West Africa.

So we have to go through international cooperation organizations. “It is difficult for researchers in their investigations to have any trace. smallDepending on the country, there are disparities. With some, it can'tthey quickly discourage judges from taking the case. This will require time, resources, energy for an expected result that is not necessarily reliable.“.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *