Brown eyes, three-day beard, baseball cap. He looks casual, somehow sympathetic, open-minded. Anne Schmidt (name changed) looks at the man's profile on
Facebook, which immediately caught her eye. Wesley Glenn is his name and lives near Frankfurt. A Briton? A US-American? She hesitates briefly, then clicks "like". Maybe this Wesley will get their attention, too?
Anne Schmidt is a woman in her late forties when, in the spring of 2018, she Social networks on the search for a partner makes. She hasn't had a relationship for a long time, her mother died months ago, she sometimes feels lonely, longs for support. She has no idea what this "like me" will trigger, that she is falling into a trap. "I did not hear anything at the time about ,Love-scamming' knew", she says. About love scam on the net. Today she knows better.
Anne gets to know Wesley through Facebook – she has no idea that it could be a trap
Anne Schmidt sits on her balcony and looks over the railing to the street in front of her house. Sometimes she has to search for words to describe her feelings – her memories are too painful. But she wants to tell, of Wesley Glenn, of whom Fraud, Of the big disappointment. It all started so promisingly.
Wesley checks in via messaging service Messenger with her. He is US-American, used to live in Frankfurt and even owns a house there. Now, however, he works as a road engineer in Africa. She is curious about the man who writes so nicely and politely. Quickly the conversation becomes more and more familiar. How are you? Did you sleep well? What are you doing now?
They write to each other several times a day, exchange information about their work, often talk about trivial things – about their favorite food, their favorite colors, favorite movies or the weather – as if they knew each other forever.
Here you can find our podcast on the topic of love scamming:
"Crime Scene Lower Saxony": Love Fraud on the Internet
Then they talk on the phone for the first time. He speaks with an American accent, his voice is deep and warm. Sometime Anne Schmidt feels a tingling in her stomach when she hears it. "He always found the right words, wasn't pushy at all," she says of. "I had the feeling that he was honestly interested in me. That was very good."
Anne now uses two cell phones; only her closest friends know her private number
In front of her on the table are two Smartphones, only her closest friends and acquaintances know the number of one of them. The other calls her "scammer cell phone". She uses it to engage suspected scammers in conversation and then expose them as fraudsters – "my little revenge because I can just turn the game around," she says. In this cell phone, she still has the chat histories with Wesley saved.
Wesley: How are you?
Anne: I am in the office.
Wesley: Are you busy??
Anne: Yes. I write to you. In two and a half hours I have time.
Wesley: I love you!
Dear? The Police warns again and again of scammers who pretend to have great feelings on the net, but are really only after the victims' money. Especially at the height of the Corona crisis, In the era of contact restrictions and lockdowns, this scam was booming. The scammers are very skillful and careful to gain the trust of the victims: "A romantic mail in the morning is followed by a short phone call at noon, after work they chat or talk on the phone for hours. At the beginning, the talks are by no means about money, but about the job, the family as well as love and a common future," it says on the Internet page of the police crime prevention of the states and the federal government.
Also Mario Krause, head of the task force Cybercrime of the Braunschweig police department has made the experience that establishing contact often drags on for weeks, if not months: "An emotional dependency is created. After a while, it's very hard to widen your view and take a different perspective."
Anne ignores doubts for a long time
Anne Schmidt also wants to believe in the good in people, although she has some doubts at first. She writes to Wesley that she has had bad experiences with men, that they should rather take it slow. "I'm sorry about that," responds. He had also been cheated on by a woman recently. Now he is looking for a partner with whom he can spend his life. He begs Anne: "Don't disappoint me." Both make plans: he will visit her. Wesley calls Anne "sunshine.
Wesley: You have conquered my heart, my body, my soul.
Anne: Somehow I have butterflies in my stomach when I think of you. I hope that we will understand each other when we meet someday.
Wesley: Oh yeah, baby. I can't wait to hold you tight in my arms.
The compliments, the beautiful words – they carry Anne through the day. Friends urge them to be careful, they tune out all warning signs. Wesley sends photos of himself and his 10-year-old son, affirms that she can trust him. "By then I had long since been caught in the spider's web of lies, I no longer saw reality," she says in retrospect.
At some point, the money demands pile up, Anne transfers thousands of euros
Again and again, Anne puts her concerns to one side – even when, at some point, it comes to the question of the ransom Sex Goes. Wesley asks, Nude pictures to send. Anne hesitates, actually this is going too far for her. "But I trusted him, my heart said: you can do this."She believes in the great love.
About four months after meeting Wesley, she gets a message from an acquaintance in Nigeria. Wesley had been kidnapped. He had already paid the ransom, but there was still money missing. Whether she could transfer something? Anne is shocked. Friends warn: be careful, it might be a scammer. When Wesley contacts her again after several days, she is immensely relieved. Nothing has happened to him, he asserts. But his money, all papers, tickets, IDs – everything is gone, he says. He can't even pay the money for the hotel room he just stayed in. She transfers money to him. Later there are more demands – his son is sick, he has to be operated on urgently, he needs money for hotel bills, for airline tickets and and and. Wesley ares he will pay everything back. He will sell his house near Frankfurt.
A year after the first contact, Anne Schmidt finally feels she has reached her goal. Wesley wants to come to Germany with his son.
Wesley: Are you ready to pick us up from the airport tomorrow??
Anne: I'm totally excited, but I'm looking forward to it!
Wesley: There would be a flight to Hanover at 10 p.m. today. There are still tickets available. I have only one problem: there is not enough money.
Anne: Wesley, again?
She pays. But Wesley never arrives at the airport in Hannover – he gets in touch later, explains that a friend intercepted him and took him to the USA. The stories are getting more adventurous, more abstruse, Anne says. "That's when it was finally clear to me: all this can't be true."
Wesley blackmails her. He threatens to publish her nude pictures
The thought that Wesley might have just been playing with her emotions hits her like a blow. First come the tears, then anger and a fierce determination to finally end the relationship. But when she hurls this at him through the phone, he threatens. He will show her nude photos at Instagram and Facebook, send the pictures to her friends and family, to all the German newspapers – if she doesn't pay him 2,500 euros immediately. She also transfers the sum. In total, she transfers 8000 euros to Africa – without ever seeing Wesley. "It was all a real shock," says Anne. "I cried for days."
Anne goes to the police and tells the whole story. But the officials don't give her any hope that she'll ever get the money back: the man calling himself Wesley is actually someone else; the photos used are stolen from the Internet. "Love scammer"Most of the criminals are sitting somewhere abroad and cannot be identified. And even with digital money transfers, the trail is hard to follow. Mario Krause of the police in Brunswick warns: "The perpetrators are very clever, they initiate the relationship with their victims over a long period of time and gain their trust. But when money comes into play, alarm bells should go off."
Anne gets involved in an internet forum
Can Anne ever trust a person again? The subject is constantly on her mind, she can't get rid of it. Losing the money, while painful, she says. But much worse, he said, is the abuse of trust.
She got a new cell phone number and Email address deleted her Facebook account, talked a lot with friends about her story. In the meantime, she exchanges views with other "scamming" victims in an Internet forum. The fact that she uses her "scammer cell phone" to repeatedly write to suspected scammers on the social networks, only to have them run up in the end, is her way of coming to terms with the experience. "I've been mentally raped," she says. This is what it feels like. The mental scars remain. But she wants to help and prevent the same thing from happening to other people like her. She doesn't want more people to feel so deceived and taken advantage of – and possibly financially ruined. Because in the end, she says, that's also important for those who have been scammed: getting the feeling that they're not alone.
Podcast on cybercrime with Mario Krause:
"Crime" podcast: Cybercrime – hunting for criminals on the Internet