Bulgarian women have been cheated out of thousands of levs through online scams. General Directorate Combatting Organized Crime (GDBOP) reported a case when a record BGN 400,000 was transferred abroad. Women become victims of love affairs, and scammers turn out to be mainly cybercriminals from North Africa.
Two weeks ago, Dimitar’s mother found an interesting friend on Facebook. John Maxwell found her on the social network. John managed to build trust easily and gathered personal information about his victim, who lives in Haskovo.
The man promised they will live happily in Bulgaria ever after as he had a lot of money. There was, however, one condition.
“He is a former military man from Afghanistan and one day he witnessed how a bomb hit a jewelry store and he collected all these valuables in one parcel and sent it to my mother, but he was stranded in London and she had to transfer the money to his account in Spain,” Dimitar Mitev says.
The elderly woman contacted her son, who lives in Norway. She asked for BGN 8,000, without mentioning what the money was for, as instructed.
“I later realized that she was 100% convinced that she had to pay this money,” Dimitar adds. “As you can see, there is no logic in what is on offer, but the manipulation itself, the very way of working upon a particular person makes her do it,” the man says.
Dimitar and his wife launched their own investigation to expose the fraud. They contacted the Maxwell in question and found out that the fraudsters were using an identity forgery program.
“He told me he was in a military, but the pictures he sent me in messenger didn’t match the person on the Facebook account.
I think they’re trying to play a role that portrays them as attractive men, machos. That’s why they upload photos in uniforms to make it easier to melt women’s hearts,” explains Trude Hockland, Dimitar’s wife.
Such scams are not uncommon in Norway either. A 62-year-old woman, a professor of medicine, plucked up courage and told the public how she lost 13 million kronor.
She was convinced that the man she was helping financially was a Greek architect who got into trouble while working in Larnaca.
In GDBOP they have received numerous alarms about such crimes, they estimate a total worth of scams at more than BGN 200,000 and dozens of Bulgarian victims. Online frauds are growing like an avalanche. Transfers to countries from Africa, Europe and Asia have been detected.
Caught in the trap of love, victims sell property, valuables, take out loans. The cases share one thing in common – a promise of a happy life together.
“The transfers are usually worth 10-20,000 Bulgarian leva. We had one case two months ago in which a young Bulgarian woman sent over BGN 400,000”, explains Vladimir Dimitrov, Head of Cybercrime Department at GDBOP. He adds that scammers use women gullibility as their most effective weapon.
The false identity is supported by stolen profile pictures – most often of UN servicemen, doctors and staff.
“In over 98% of cases, we have found organised crime groups in North African countries. We assume that the monthly turnover of this type of crime is several million levs.Sometimes other organized crime groups that have only mules are used to get the money from the victim,” Dimitrov added.
Mules are usually people who urgently need finances – seriously ill or drug addicts, accounts are opened in their name. For a small commission, the money is withdrawn from ATMs in different parts of Europe – so the tracks are covered, and the victims lose everything.