South Africa: eight arrests for sentimental scams

South African police arrested eight suspects in connection with scams that have targeted at least 100 women.

The groups used crying stories to trick women, including widows and divorcees, into giving them money, the BBC reports.

Law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, Secret Service, and Europol, estimate that victims suffered losses of nearly $ 7 million in the scam.

According to local police, the suspects were detained during an organized raid in various locations in the early morning of October 19. The suspects, aged between 33 and 52, are said to be linked to a large organized criminal group in Nigeria known as “Black Ax.”

TimesLive reports that Black Ax has been operating these types of scams since 2011.

“These suspects allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable or divorced widows, who were led to believe they were in a genuine romantic relationship, but who were scammed of hard-earned money,” local police said . “The suspects used social networking sites and online dating sites to find and contact their victims.”

The stories used by the suspects used a multitude of pretexts to get the victims to send money, and quickly. The arguments raised related to taxes payable before receiving an inheritance, urgent trips abroad and requests for help to get out of a “crushing debt”.

In some cases, payments of 100 million rand (ZAR) have been made, or around $ 6,800.

The group didn’t just look for victims on dating apps and websites. He is also said to have been involved in corporate email compromise projects where email accounts were compromised. When companies tried to make payments, the bank details used were secretly replaced by those controlled by cybercriminals.

Most of the alleged victims are in the United States, but South African police say the organization has also affected family members, including “neighbors, relatives, friends and relatives.”

US prosecutors have requested the extradition of the suspects. The suspects are charged with aggravated identity theft, money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud and mail fraud.

“The scammers intimidated and reprimanded their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared,” the South African Police Department said in a statement. “We are convinced that this research will have a significant impact in this region and beyond.”

The FBI estimates that $ 133 million was lost to such scams during 2021.

In September, the US Department of Justice convicted a former US Army reservist of conducting romance scams and compromising corporate email accounts. Along with a co-defendant, the scammer had made about $ 1.8 million.

Source: “.com”

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