INDIANAPOLIS— A former romance scammer is sharing his tactics in the hopes of protecting others.
WRTV Investigates spoke with Chris Maxwell, a reformed con artist, from his home in Nigeria.
Maxwell said he met his victims on social media using a fake profile of someone in the military.
“I used Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok,” Maxwell said. “All I needed to do was create a fake profile. I text them and they respond to me.”
Maxwell said he talked to American women on the phone for hours at a time.
“I stayed on calls with women from 12 am to 5 am in the morning,” Maxwell said. “I take the time to talk to them, and it makes it easy for them to fall in love with me.”
Maxwell said he made $80,000 scamming several women.
He used a Nigerian manual on how to lure women in and make them fall in love.
"It's a format, step by step instructions on how to start a conversation with someone you meet online for the first time," Maxwell said.
The manual encourages scammers to go after women over the age of 40.
“They are working hence they have the money you need,” read the manual. “Also, being single at 40, they are eager for love.”
The guide also encourages scammers to make the conversation all about the women.
“Tell her about yourself but keep it short,” read the manual. “Tell her about your hobbies...it is best if you say a hobby that she also likes. That will
keep the conversation going and make her like you more.”
The Nigerian scammer manual also includes a list of 60 compliments you can use including:
- You light up my life like nobody else
- You look beautiful even when you don't try
- You’re even sexy when you’re bossy
- The more I learn about you, the more I fall
- I love talking to you
- You could pick your nose and I still wouldn’t be turned-off
The guide also says you should not ask for money outright.
Instead, it gives examples of sob stories you can tell to get money from women.
- Keep the chat going for long before you ask for anything
- Build a connection with her
- Spend days talking about random things, learn a lot about her.
- The more you know about her, the better it will be for you
- It can be time consuming, but it’s totally worth it
Chris Maxwell told WRTV he was at university while he was scamming women.
“I needed money to survive,” Maxwell said. “I was fighting for my life."
Maxwell said he felt bad and eventually came clean to one of his victims.
He now works for Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology.
Pat Breitkreuz of Westfield wasn’t scammed by Chris Maxwell, but she lost nearly $100,000 in a similar romance scam.
“Our plan was to get married,” Breitkreuz said. “We started talking as friends and then it grew. I really care about you. That grew into love."
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Romance scams are big business for criminals looking for personal information and money.
“I got scammed big time and it hurts financially and emotionally,” Breitkreuz said.
Romance scam complaints grew 25% from 2019 to 2021, according to the FBI.
WRTV Investigates shared the Nigerian manual with Jennifer Adamany at the Better Business Bureau Serving Central Indiana.
"It's very common for people to meet online these days, but the difference is they actually meet in person or talk to you face to face virtually,” Adamany said. “If you get into a situation where the person doesn't want to get on the phone with you to video chat, or they come up with an excuse, that's going to be a huge red flag."
Consider it a red flag if your match asks you for money.
“They build you up and they make you feel wonderful and then they say woe is me can you help me out with some money,” Adamany said.
Tips from the Federal Trade Commission
If you suspect a romance scam:
- Stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust. Do your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest?
- Search online for the type of job the person has plus the word “scammer.” Have other people posted similar stories? For example, search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”
- Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. Is it associated with another name or with details that don’t match up? Those are signs of a scam.
How to Report a Romance Scam
If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, wire transfer, credit or debit card, or cryptocurrency, contact the company or your bank right away. Tell them you paid a scammer and ask them to refund your money.
If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Notify the social networking site or app where you met the scammer, too.