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Romance scammer who targeted 670 women gets 28 months in jail

Found love online? Sending them money? Friends and family warning you it could be a scam? Don't be too quick to dismiss their concerns...

A UK-based scammer who preyed on nearly 700 women and conned nine of them out of £20,000 (about $27,000), has been sent to prison.

London resident Osagie Aigbonohan, 41, pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and money laundering, including scamming £9500 out of one victim in the course of a fake 10-month online relationship.

According to the UK National Crime Agency (NCA), Aigbonohan spun a hard-luck story about how he’d run short of money after paying for the funerals of a group of people who died in tragic industrial accident.

He needed the money for drilling equipment he was hiring for a business venture overseas…

…but it was all a pack of lies.

Fabricated stories

As Dominic Mugan, a manager at the NCA, explains:

Aigbonohan had no regard for these women. He went to great lengths to gain their trust, fabricating stories to exploit them out of thousands.

This is a typical pattern of romance fraudsters: they work to build rapport before making such requests. Romance fraud is a crime that affects victims emotionally and financially, and in some cases impacts their families.

We want to encourage all those who think they’ve been a victim of romance fraud to not feel embarrassed or ashamed but rather report it.

Remember that romance scammers work with empathy and emotion as their tools-in-trade – they generally don’t rely on malware, spyware or booby-trapped email attachments to access their victims’ bank accounts.

In other words, traditional technological tools for protecting against cybercrime, such as anti-virus blockers, web filters and email scanners, don’t help much.

Romance scammers, just like fraudsters who talk you into investing in bogus cryptocurrency schemes, trick their victims person-to-person by building up a facade based on trust, behind which the criminals persuade their victims to send money of their own accord.

Tech support scammers also use this approach, by phoning you up – or persuading you to call them – and telling you a pile of unreconstructed lies about “security problems” on your computer, hoping to convince you to pay for their “support” in “fixing” a computer problem that doesn’t exist. Unlike romance scammers, tech support scammers usually use fear and not love, frightening you with what they claim are the consequences of not getting the “problem” sorted out. Their primary goal is to persuade you to pay on purpose for a “service” that is not required, and indeed does nothing at all to improve your cybersecurity. As with romance scams, this leaves victims with outgoing payments they made themselves, and are therefore unlikely to report to the authorities or challenge as fraudulent.

The risk of alienation

As the NCA warns, romance scammers leave their victims out of pocket and emotionally shattered: knowing you’ve deeply trusted a person who never once meant anything they said about you is a bitter pill for anyone to swallow.

But there’s another aspect to the aftermath of this sort of crime that is often overlooked, namely that romance scam victims sometimes end up alienated from friends and family, even after the scam is exposed and the financial losses stop.

That’s because scammers who spot the signs that family members are trying to intervene will often go out of their way turn the victim against their own friends and family in order to prolong the scam.

What to do?

  • Don’t blame yourself if you get reeled in. These people are confidence tricksters by profession, so they have loads of practice. Unlike many online scammers, they are willing to play a long game, investing weeks, months and even years into building up false friendships.
  • Consider reporting your scam to the police. You almost certainly won’t get any money back, but with your evidence and that of other victims, there is at least a possibility of identifying and stopping the criminals involved, and of warning potential future victims away from these scammers.
  • Look for a support group if you feel depressed after getting scammed like this. But beware of people “reaching out” to help you online after you’ve been scammed, lest you get drawn into a scam all over again. Ignore any offers of help to “recover your money” after a scam – it’s probably the very same scammers having another try. Ask your local police or health care professional for advice.
  • Listen openly to your friends and family if they try to warn you. These criminals think nothing of deliberately setting you against your family as part of their scam, using romantic excuses such as “love conquers all”. Don’t let the scammers drive a wedge between you and your family as well as between you and your money.
  • Get out as soon as you realise it’s a scam. Don’t warn the scammers you suspect them, or ask them if they really do love you after all, because they will only tell you what you want to hear. Cut off contact unilaterally, abruptly and completely, and get into a genuine support group if you need help.

Original video here:
Click the cog icon to speed up playback or show live subtitles.
Read a TRANSCRIPT of the video.


I think a romance scammer is currently scamming my mom, but when I confronted her about it, telling her everything to look for to see that she was being scammed, she quit talking to me because I do not believe “that this is the love of her life.” Not only has my mom sent him money, but her brother too because he always happens to fall on hard times when he tries to do good. After three months of knowing about this, I can’t figure out how to help her.


I’m really sorry to hear this… but I simply don’t know what to suggest, given that your mother won’t take your advice any more. Maybe she’s right and she isn’t being scammed, in which case you’d think she’d rush to to compare her situation with the many examples of actual scams you can find here on Naked Security (or that she’d be happy to watch the video in this article), which would quickly allow her to convince you that you’re the one who’s wrong.

But if she’s already decided that the problem lies with you for doubting her, then I simply don’t know how you can persuade her to take advice from anyone else, or even to watch the short video we’ve provided here (where we tried to be as unjudgmental and as unconfrontational as we possibly could).

In the internet era, we really do consider “chatting to an unknown person online” to be the equivalent of “meeting them”. This just makes it even easier for scammers to pretend to be someone they aren’t, and to come up with excuses and explanations when they’re caught out saying things that are implausible or even obvious lies.

Anyone out there who’s gone through this with a family member? Were you ever able to find a way to persuade them to listen to “third-party” advice? If so, did it work, or did it simply “confirm” their “suspicions” that the rest of the world simply didn’t understand why their own story was “different”?


Gabriel, i suggest you report this to the bank associated with her account to stop the scams. Bank has its own regulation as part of the national banking compliance.


I agree with Nick. Our Risk team catches these in process every once and a while. The bank can share details with her of the likely fraud, that will be hard evidence, that would otherwise be unknown to the victim.


Warning signs would have been a helpful addition to this piece. As well, guys who friend you or approach you on a thread whose profiles are nothing but photos of a decent-looking affluent appearing athletic guy, who probably isn’t that guy at all.


I didn’t put specific examples in the main body of the article – because different scammers take different approaches – although the article does contain a video (and a link to a full transcript of the video) where you can learn more about the way these things often play out.

So I think the warning signs you are asking for after are all there, although you will need to click a link if you want to read transcript instead of watching the video.

If you do watch the video (it’s only 6′ long) or read the transcript link, you will see that I discuss the very issues you mention, notably: how romance scammers often use dating sites to find both potential victims and people they can pretend to be, and why it’s easy for them to seem like the person of your dreams, given that you’ve probably given away enough details about yourself on social media for a criminally-minded liar to create the perfect “backstory” for a “relationship”.


We had a friend who was scammed by someone claiming to be a U.S. Marine stationed in Europe and needed money for a ticket to get home, then for a visa, etc., etc. None of her friends were able to convince her that it was a scam, until one person who was a Marine pointed out several flaws in his story (including that the duffle bag in one of the pictures he sent was actually one from the Army).

In her case, someone who was an authority that could identify those flaws was the key to getting her to realize it was a scam.


Gabriel et al,

One thing you could try—if you have a family-member who is tangled up in this, and you know where they bank—is to reach out to their financial institution with your concerns. The bank won’t (shouldn’t) tell you anything unless you’re authorized on your loved one’s accounts, but they should take the information that you can provide seriously and be able to place some kind of fraud alert on the account so that any future requests to send money are scrutinized more carefully by their internal fraud team. Romance scams are an absolute scourge, and they’re happening all the time. My sincere sympathies to anyone who’s caught up in one.


The problems with relying on this approach are that in most countries [1] unless the bank thinks that the person is receiving money that’s the proceeds of crime, or is sending money knowing they’re assisting a crime, they can’t stop someone from spending their money as they wish (in other words, the bank ends up experiencing exactly the same “talk to the hand” reaction that friends and family did) [2] the scammers often avoid regular banks and ask for the money via wire transfer, or in the form of gift cards, or some other “bankless” transaction. Avoiding the bank is often woven into the entire backstory – “funds stolen by corrupt staff at this end”, “crooked cops in the mix”, or any number of plausible but ultimately totally bogus stories.

Even if the bank is 99.9% certain that the recipient is a scammer, and that the background to the transaction is based on untruths and manipulation, it cannot easily reverse the transaction as fraudulent if the sender insists upon authorising it anyway – it’s their right to decide how to spend their own money legally. Willingly giving money to a criminal when you don’t realise they are a criminal is not, as far as I know, itself a crime.


Love ya Paul, but I don’t agree with this. Our FI makes it a point to help people being scammed, and yes sometimes they can get money back, if it wasn’t already transferred out of the receiving account.
I strongly believe it is worth the effort to talk to the bank. Only because I know “we” do help people with these situations as best as we can.


Ah, I guess I didn’t make myself clear: I’m not saying *don’t* do this – as my comment says, I just want people to be aware that “the problems with *relying* on this approach are…”.

By this I meant that if you have a family member ensnared by one of these crooks, the bank may want to help, may be trying to help, may be desperate to help, yet nevertheless not be able to prevent someone transferring the money if they insist against all advice in doing so.

When I worked at Sophos in Australia I had a chum who was well-informed about advance fee fraud and who had an Australia Post franchise. (Like the UK, Oz has privatised its post offices, and franchise operators are required to provide various statutory services such as selling stamps, accepting mail, handling payments such as government benefits, and providing money transfer services.)

He used to say how much it broke his heart to see people remitting large sums overseas to unreconstructed scammers… especially when the scams followed the oldest and most obviously bogus tricks in the criminal playbook. All he could really do, from a statutory point of view, was to advise the person as wisely as he could not to send the funds. He couldn’t ultimately refuse to wire the money if the sender didn’t accept his claims – he basically had to “outsell” the scammers by bursting the deeply-desired dream of a victim who was already committed to a “relationship”, or a “job”, or a “business proposal”.

The crooks knew perfectly well what advice and dissuasion would be offered by the various FIs and wire transfer services, and basically coached their victims in advance how to “argue back”, often simply by telling the victim that although many, perhaps even most, online relationhips really were scams, “this one is different, dearly beloved, and don’t let anyone control your thoughts and rob your happiness by telling you otherwise”.


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