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Embassy flooded with scam enquiries

4th August 2010

Internet fraudsters are logging into social networking accounts and contacting users’ friends, pretending they are in trouble and asking for money.

The US Embassy in London has been receiving enquiries every day from people who have been defrauded for hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dollars by internet contacts they believed were their friends or loved ones.

Types of scams

People are falling victim to scams including romance scams, bogus inheritance notices, fake foreign lottery wins and fraudulent work permits or job offers, as well as scams making victims believe they are helping a friend in trouble.

One version of this scam is when fraudsters obtain a person’s login information for a social networking website, change their profile to make it seem like they’re in trouble and contact the person’s friends via the social networking site to ask for money urgently.

Adoption scams

The US Embassy in London has also become aware of adoption scams, where fraudsters claim to be parents unable to care for a child, or members of the clergy working at an orphanage seeking a good home for a child. Victims are asked to send money to proceed with the bogus adoption.

Recently, fraud recovery fraud has been occurring after some victims discover they have been defrauded, where they are emailed from fraudsters pretending to be from a police agency, offering to recover the money lost. The bogus policemen ask for an upfront ‘refundable’ fee to open the investigation or court files.

Don’t fall victim to a scam

The US Embassy in London is offering some advice for people to protect themselves against these scams:

  • always be suspicious of anyone asking for money through the internet, even if the request appears to be from a friend. Verify to a supposed friend’s circumstances by speaking to them directly
  • if someone you’ve met online provides you with a copy of their passport or visa, contact your embassy in the country where the passport or visa was issued to verify the validity of the document
  • beware of anyone who requests money for BTA, or Basic Travel Allowance, as a requirement to depart another country for the United States (or any other country for that matter). There is no such thing as BTA.
  • watch out for a scammer who claims to have been born and raised in the United States, or other English-speaking country, but uses poor grammar and spelling indicative of a non-native English speaker
  • be suspicious if a scammer claims to be in the UK, but asks for the money to be sent to an account in another country. The scammer may also state he or she is in a third country, but requests that funds are sent to the UK
  • beware if a scammer claims to be contacting you from a US Embassy where your partner, business associate or friend is being detained pending payment of some kind of fee. US embassies do not detain people

If you are a UK resident who has been a victim of a scam like these, you can report it to Action Fraud.

Read more on the US Embassy in London’s website.

Please note: Action Fraud is not responsible for the content on external websites.

To report a fraud, call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040 or use our online fraud reporting tool.

See also: 
Online fraud
Romance scams
Fraud recovery fraud