Notes from a Private Investigator I
Our private investigator teams in IPIA and BEPIA are often contacted by men who have been victims of a scam. Often the scammers pretend to be single women and entice the man into a relationship and eventually milk as much money from him as they can before disappearing.
It may seem easy to criticise someone as being gullible to fall for the scam we describe below but it happens a lot. Also real people do meet in this way and genuinely live happy lives. It can be very difficult to tell if you are being scammed or if you are in a genuine relationship.
Usually our private investigators are able to help. It depends on the steps the scammer has taken (or not taken) to hide his or her identity. It also depends on how far the scam has progressed.
In one of the most used cons, the con artists are one or two men and an English-speaking girl. They usually put a personal profile for the girl on different dating sites.
It is a long slow scam as the con artists try and build the trust of the male victim. It can take weeks or months. Perhaps we could call it “long term robbery”.
The woman will have daily contact with the man via texts, email and telephone over weeks or even months. The contact is always through email, telephone and text messages.
They often send a photo of a pretty (not too beautiful to create suspicion) girl, taken from the web.
It is important to remember that the scammers often take these photos from different sources including dating sites, Facebook, blogs – the people in the photos themselves are innocent.
So the man and woman fall in love. A number of different things can then happen.
The family member of the girl might get suddenly critically sick (the scenario our private investigators most often hear is the mother has some terrible illness) and she needs money to help.
Sometimes the scam may stop there and in that case you might count yourself lucky.
Our private investigators have known some extreme cases where the scam seems non-ending and the man loses thousands of dollars. Below is an example of the kind of continual grabbing IPIA and BEPIA have come across.
The girl agrees to marry the man and go to meet him in his country.
She asks for money to for a visa, then money for the trip for the visa interview. She then asks for a bank deposit which is needed to show that she can support herself in the receiving country.
The girl will even show her you copies of her ID, passport and of the visa she obtained. All false. Money is often sent to the woman through Western Union. This provides no security to the sending party and no way to stop or reverse a payment and no way to identify the recipient, as they use a fake ID to pick up the money.
She then asks for the man for money to buy a plane ticket. Or if the con artists are really sophisticated they may even go through a travel agency, which they create themselves.
So by now lots of money has been passed to the girl. The problem is these con artists want more and more. They will keep pushing as far as they can.
When the woman is due to travel, she calls and says that she has been detained at the Jakarta airport, usually for an immigration related issue, or because she was under contract to work as a domestic servant and is trying to leave before the contract expires.
Again of course money is needed to get out of this situation. The con artists will back this up with all types of fake documents.
How do you defend against Con Artists?
Our private investigators will always advise that you do not settle for communication by email, phone and text pages only. Insist on video chat. These are commonly used in Indonesia and if the girl or woman in question does not know how to use it, someone she knows will and can help her.
When you are video chatting with her, call at the same time, so that you can confirm it is the same person, who answers the telephone. Talk to her on the phone and ask her to wave to you on the video connection.
Do not send money via Western Union. Send it via bank wire transfer.
Look for inconsistencies in the supplied documents. For instance a birth year that does not match the approximate age of the person.
Our private investigators need to assess each situation on a case-by-case basis. It depends on whether the victim and the con artists are still in contact and whether the con artists have made any mistakes or not.
Contact our private investigators and give us a brief summary. Tell us what your last communication was and what you know about the con artists. We will be able to tell you whether or not we can help, what we will do and what the expected cost will be.
Remember to contact us before you burn your bridges with the con artists. It may feel good to tell them what you think of them, but your chances of recovery will be greatly reduced. That said, our private investigators have been successful in identifying the con artists and recovering lost money for our clients