In a report shared with BleepingComputer, the Agari Cyber Intelligence Division (ACID) outlines how a criminal gang out of Nigeria called “Scarlet Widow” targets those who are more likely to be lonely such as farmers, elderly, the disabled, and divorced with “romance scams.”
Romance scams are months long, if not year long, campaigns where bad actors catfish, or pretend to be in love with, an unsuspecting victim in order to steal money from them. Not only do victims lose money, but the emotional entanglement ultimately leads to heartbreak.
Tim Sadler, CEO and Co-founder at Tessian:
“Phishing scams prey on human vulnerabilities like trust and ignorance to defraud victims of their money and valuable information. “Romance scams” are an extreme – and highly profitable – form because they go one step further. They exploit their victims’ loneliness, emotional vulnerability and lack of digital literacy.
“Scarlet Widows” systematic approach to romance scamming shows how effective and damaging it can be to individuals and their communities. The nature of the scam also means that victims can be too embarrassed to come forward and seek justice. However, if these scams continue to rise in popularity, greater awareness needs to be raised to protect vulnerable groups and combat those targeting them. Through greater awareness, individuals are more likely to be vigilant and sceptical when communicating with strangers online.”