Recently, Nigerian Kazeem Owonla was arrested and extradited to Indiana where he is facing charges for scamming an Indiana woman out of more than $100,000 in a romance scam. The victim first met Owonla online in January of this year. Owonla used the name John Tony Hagan in his communications with his Indiana victim who is thought to be one of a number of romance scam victims of Owonla that are still being investigated. As is the typical situation in these scams, the apparent romance grew quickly and once his victim was hooked, Owonla started asking his victim for money for various purposes such as to pay for the cost of replacing stolen tools or to help him pay his employees when his own funds were stolen. Somewhat ironically, although Owonla used the alias of John Tony Hagan, the photograph he supplied online was that of Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, a man who protects the citizens of Montana from such scams.
There are many red flags to help you identify romance scams. I describe many of them in detail in my book “The Truth About Avoiding Scams” which you can purchase from Amazon by clicking on the icon of the book at the right hand side of the page. The most important thing to remember is to always be skeptical of anyone who falls in love with you quickly online without ever meeting you and early into the relationship needs you to wire money. Here are a few other things to look for to help identify a romance scam. Often their profile picture is stolen from a modeling website on the Internet. If the picture looks too professional and the person looks too much like a model (or an attorney general), you should be wary. Particular phrases, such as “Remember the distance or color does not matter, but love matters a lot in life” is a phrase that turns up in many romance scam emails. Also be on the lookout for bad spelling and grammar as many of the romance scammers claim to be Americans, but are actually foreigners lying about where they are and who they are. Of course you should be particularly concerned if someone falls in love with you almost immediately. Often they will ask you to use a webcam, but will not use one themselves. This is another red flag. One thing you may do is ask them to take a picture of themselves holding up a sign with their name on it. In addition, ask for a number of pictures because generally when the scammers are stealing pictures of models from websites, they do not have many photographs. Ask for the picture to be at a particular place that you designate to further test them.