March 26, 2018 (Courtesy of Edmontonjournal.com)- An international online scam involving a Danish nurse, a Nigerian fraudster and an Edmonton man’s driver’s licence is being used as a cautionary tale highlighting how easy it is to be bilked out of thousands of dollars.
Edmonton police were drawn into the investigation when a 40-something intensive care nurse in Denmark who police are calling “Suzy” contacted the economic crimes section to report that an Edmonton man’s identity was being used in a social media scam.
The file landed on the desk of Edmonton police Det. Linda Herczeg.
Looking for an acquaintance on Facebook, Suzy came across a profile that shared the same friends. She reached out on Facebook Messenger and the pair started chatting.
What she didn’t realize was that the account was fake and the person she was talking to wasn’t who she thought it was.
Tapping away at the keyboard, sending smiley emojis and gifs, was not in fact “David” from Edmonton but a “Fake David” in Nigeria, a fraudster who had hijacked a Facebook identity and created a mirror friends’ list.
The conversation started off harmlessly enough, but soon an elaborate backstory developed.
The fraudster said even though he was from Edmonton and had attended Edmonton Christian schools, he was in fact in the American military serving in Syria with another year in his deployment.
Then came the hook.
Fake David said he was divorced and his wife had taken everything from him. Everything but their 12-year-old son. Then there was his brother, in a costly drug treatment program, who he had to support.
The imitator claimed his lack of money meant he was confined to military rations and canned food.
That’s when the woman started sending him money. At first it was small amounts to allow her new online friend to get food. Then she offered to send him more.
In the end, it cost her $10,000.
“One thing people don’t realize is that when you get into these situations, they monopolize the conversation, they profile you and through that they play on your weaknesses,” Herczeg said.
“If you have the personality that tends to being a caregiver or wanting to help people, you get pulled into the scam.”
And the lies escalated.
The man said he met a family in Syria he was helping to smuggle out of the wartorn country and that he wanted to send her a large sum of money through the mail in a package. The deal was that when the Syrian family arrived, she could deliver the money.
But there was no Syrian family. There was no package.
“He said that she could open the package and take a little bit of the money to get some of the money she had sent to the man,” said Herczeg.
That’s when it twigged for Suzy and she contacted the military in Canada and the U.S., only to discover that she had been the victim of a scam.
So she confronted the fraudster, who astoundingly offered up the fact he had found David’s driver’s licence via a simple Google search. The person she was communicating with was Nigerian and everything about their conversation was fake.
“If you look at the people who commit these types of frauds, the personalities and the behaviour types, they are narcissists,” said Herczeg.
“They start profiling you from the minute you start a conversation in cyberspace.”
As for the real David, Herczeg said she contacted the Edmonton man, who told her that even though his driver’s licence had expired in 2007, it had been used in fraudulent scams for almost a decade.
“Never send your personal information to anyone over the internet, and especially images of your personal information such as a driver’s licence,” said Herczeg.
“Once it’s out there, it’s out there, and there is no getting it back.”
Herczeg said since the fraud victim was in Denmark, there was no local investigation.