“Scarlet Widow” Romance Scammers Target Vulnerable People Through Fake Personas

By Bill Toulas / February 15, 2019

Agari Cyber Intelligence researchers have released a report that focuses on the tactics of an active Nigerian cybercriminal group named “Scarlet Widow”. Coinciding with Valentine’s Day, the unveiling of how the group tricks people shows that people who look for love online are their primary targets. More specifically, it’s people who are finding this search harder than others who are in Scarlet Widow’s crosshair reticle. So their baiting is focused on sites such as,,, and the like. The group is approaching vulnerable people in these platforms by using fake personas, initiating in romance scams.

The personas pose as beautiful models of sentimental background and send private messages to users or the aforementioned online dating platforms. Once someone responds, the scammers engage in conversation that is based upon widely accepted and valued elements such as faith in God, trust, respect and understanding in a relationship, etc. To cover a broad spectrum of acceptance, the personas are disregarding age and supposedly focus on the inner personality, while the notion that “no one is perfect” is also thrown at the victim to create false hope. Of course, it’s all fake, and it all ends up with the scammers asking for money.


source: Agari Report

One of the common scenarios is for personas to claim that they want to leave their modeling position wherever this supposedly is, and travel to meet the victim. Depending on the case, the scammers ask for an amount of money to arrange the trip. Once they receive it, the situation becomes a “Whac-A-Mole” game, with the persona throwing various excuses on why they can’t meet with the victim while asking for more money that will allegedly resolve the pending problems. This situation can dry victims out of money, as those who belong in vulnerable population categories are easier to deceive due to their grasp in hope.

As the Agari report mentions, one case study of a man that got tricked by a Scarlet Widow persona named “Laura Cahill” lost more than $50000 before the scammers stopped responding to his emails. The messages of the victim demonstrate a strong psychological investment that acts as the basis for the victims to keep on fooling themselves, so the scammers have to make minimal efforts to convince them to send more money really. Agari researchers say that Scarlet Widow is getting deposits from victims in the hundreds each day, with some long-running cases drawing sums that go up to half a million US dollars!

Have you ever had a fake romance experience with an online scam persona? Let us know in the comments below, and don’t forget to like this story and subscribe to our socials, on Facebook and Twitter.

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