Nigerian romance scam has parish ties
“Kenneth” and his alleged son Tim.
This was Fullem's first attempt at online dating. Soon e-mails led to phone calls and eventually, after weeks of talking, Kenneth said he loved Fullem, a Virginia resident, and was planning on flying to see her from Malaysia. He said he was in Malaysia for work. He sent her his flight itinerary and many poetic, romantic e-mails.
Fullem was so impressed by the e-mails that she searched for the verbiage online to see if it was originally written by a poet. But what she found out was that Jimmy Kenneth did not exist - he was the made-up persona of one of many romance scammers based out of Nigeria.
Similar scams have been occurring throughout the United States for the past few years. The scammers lead the victim to believe that they are in love and then demand money for medical expenses, travel or investments.
According to Romancescams.org, a non-profit information and advocacy organization, more than 900 Americans have reported losing money to a romance scammer for a total of over $11 million lost. The site also says that those who are scammed once are usually put on a mailing list by the scammer and will be contacted by numerous other frauds through e-mail, instant messaging and by phone.
After finding out that Kenneth was a fraud, Fullem contacted Match.com, Facebook, Yahoo and the airline in which he had booked his flight to inform them that he was a scam artist. She also contacted the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but she was told that unless Kenneth had taken money from her or threatened her, there was no crime and the FBI could not act on it. Kenneth had asked Fullem for $1,000 to cover medical expenses for his son, but she refused to give him the money.
His flight to visit her was cancelled the next day.
Fullem said she was one of the lucky ones who realized it was a scam before she had given away any of her money, but she wants to warn other people who are looking for love online.
"I can't believe I ended up in this situation and I'm sure I'm not the first," Fullem said. "I think women are too embarrassed to tell anyone when this happens, so they keep quiet. That is not my style. I don't want any other women to go through what I did."
Fullem encourages all women who are involved with someone online to take the quiz offered at www.romancescams.org to see if they may be the victim of a scam.
She is also worried that the scammer may have taken actual pictures or images from St. Charles Parish residents and used them as part of the scam.
"It is highly likely that the man in the photos…is not (the scammer), but some innocent person whose photos were intercepted off of a public site," Fullem said. "I'm hoping someone can identify the guy in the pictures. Perhaps he does live in St. Charles."
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