They’re recruited by ads you see in your spam bin, saying “work from home and earn HK,000”. Money should be sent to where it’s useful.” I was to tell my bank it was a personal transaction. Being a truthful person, I had said I didn’t know her; I was doing it for a friend. Typically, this mule then transfers the money by Western Union to another mule in the receiving country, who delivers the cash to the scammers. I threw a fake jealous fit, refusing to send money to a woman who was probably his girlfriend. They would ask no questions if I showed confidence, because I was British and bound to send money home. You’re a single lady looking for love, so what’s not to like about Dr John – username “Hunk Jon”.His profile photos and “verified” Facebook, Linked In and Twitter credentials portray a respectable, clean-cut chap. That’s because, in reality, hunky Dr John is a cynical West African romance scammer.The tall Viking pictured exists somewhere, possibly unaware his image is being used to extort cash from gullible lonely hearts, explains Paul Jackson, a former Hong Kong police officer turned cybercrime investigator.
I pretended to sign in to his account and sent him a mocked-up failed log-in slip, saying “wrong password”. I pretended to try again, this time sending him a fake failed transaction slip, demanding “non-resident tax certification”. I was instructed to wire the sum to Dr John’s UK “tax agent”, a named woman with a London bank account. Scammers accumulate accounts around the globe; it’s how they get money out. Sending the money to me doesn’t solve any problem … When Wong heard Dr John’s voice, he laughed: “Swedish? Definitely West African.” I pretended my bank queried the UK transfer, asking about my relationship with the recipient. ” So I emailed a doctored passport and access was granted to his account, which seemed to have several million pounds sterling in it. I will be very angry with you.” He now wanted HK,000, the extra to pay the “agent fee”. Despite pointing out to Lovestruck the numerous suspicious “widower” profiles, they continue to pop up. They’re unregulated and who are you going to complain to? I logged off again without trying to make any transaction, and let two weeks pass, but my slow progress drove Dr John mad. I pretended to make a cash transfer, to avoid paperwork. “I was thinking to introduce you to my bank, so you could do the payment from my account.” It was urgent.He told me to contact his bank, Lazard, so I could access his account to do the transfer.Typically this involves asking a victim to send a small amount of money to buy food, pay for daily living expenses, internet access, hiring a private room with a webcam or numerous other variations on the above.Filipino scammers may also ask you to send money for plane tickets, visa fees, marriage annulment fees or other travel related expenses. In one variation a Filipino asks you to send money so that she can purchase a webcam for an online video chat with you.My attempt to “scam the scammer” started with a friend pointing out suspicious guys posting on Lovestruck, a paid-for dating site popular with professionals.Guys posing as widowed engineers or medics with Ph Ds, children, good photos: they’re the ones, my friend said. After brief chats on Lovestruck, he diverted me to Whats App – a common ploy, says Senior Police Inspector Dicky Wong Tik-ki of the CSTCB’s cyber security division.Dr John explained his UK 44 phone code: he had lived in Manchester with his daughter since his British wife died last year.He planned a Hong Kong business trip, supplying dental equipment to China, and would move here soon.