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Online dating scams: FBI helps Hawks arrest eight suspects in Cape Town who duped women out of R100m

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The FBI, US Secret Service and Interpol have helped the Hawks apprehend eight foreign nationals in Cape Town suspected of being involved in internet scams and money laundering, fleecing over 100 vulnerable women out of R100 million.

Picture: Freeimages.com

Cape Town – The FBI, US Secret Service and Interpol have helped the Hawks apprehend eight foreign nationals in Cape Town suspected of being involved in internet scams, money laundering and international-wide financial fraud.

The suspects, aged between 33 to 52, allegedly lured their victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees, into believing they were involved in serious romantic relationships before duping them out of a combined R100 million through ’’sob stories’’, the Hawks said in a statement on Tuesday. The alleged fraudsters ’’intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared’’.

The Hawks Serious Commercial Crime Investigation Unit, Crime Intelligence, K9, National Intervention Unit, Special Task Force, Tactical Operations Management Section, Criminal Record Centre and Cape Town Metro police were also involved in tracking down the suspects.

’’It is alleged that these suspects allegedly preyed on victims, many of whom are vulnerable widows or divorcees, who were led to believed that they were in a genuine romantic relationships but were scammed out of their hard-earned money,’’ the Hawks said.

’’The suspects used social media websites, online dating websites to find and connect with their victims. Other modus operandi used by the suspects includes business email compromise, where email accounts are diverted in order to change banking details. They assumed fake names and trolled dating sites.

’’Once they had ingratiated themselves with their victims, they allegedly concocted sob stories about why they needed money – ie, taxes to release an inheritance, essential overseas travel, crippling debt, etc – and then siphoned money from victim’s accounts to the amount of 100 million.

’’The crimes allegedly committed by the suspects hit close to home. Neighbours, parents, friends and family would be targets of this organisation.

’’The fraudsters intimidated and berated their victims, ruined their lives and then disappeared. We are confident that this investigation will have a significant impact on this region and beyond.

’’The FBI estimates that more than 100 people lost more than 100 million of rands in romance scams from 2011 till to date. To report any suspected online scam fraud, file a report via the nearest police station.’’

The operation was initiated based on the Mutual Legal Assistance from Central Authorities of the United States of America that was approved by the Republic of South Africa, the Hawks said.

’’All suspects were arrested during a large-scale operation in the early morning hours of today and will be charged with a variety of financial crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire/mail fraud/mail and money laundering.

’’The suspects in this investigation are alleged to have ties to a transnational organised crime syndicate originating in Nigeria,’’ the Hawks said.

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