Saturation occurred when the themes identified in the documents began to repeat themselves and subsequent documents did not yield new themes. In this study, thematic saturation occurred with a sample of documents per keyword phrase. The first 10 pages, i. These articles, however, varied in relevance and length, and were also repetitive. The actual sample size was thus much smaller and comprised approximately documents.
Overall, this procedure was a consistent means of collecting data and ensured that each category was given equal weight and consideration. These issues were handled by relying primarily on authenticated websites such as news sites [i. This analysis adequately captured the properties of cyber criminal organization, and the operation of online romance scams and identity fraud. Using a different search engine Yahoo or AltaVista and a different set of keyword combinations, however, could have resulted in different articles that provided new information and a different analysis.
Future research could repeat this study using other search engines and keywords to generalize the findings of this research. Romance scams have existed prior to the internet era and have taken many forms CSS, For instance, victims would receive romantic letters via post, and after establishing correspondence and trust, the scammer inevitably requests money Arms The newspaper dating classifieds were also another avenue for conducting romance scams; these were more targeted as scammers knew their victims sought romance and thus were more likely to be entangled in the scam Arms, Romance scams have now shifted online.
Scammers can now access a larger pool of victims that are geographically dispersed with great ease and anonymity. Scammers use legitimate dating sites as springboards for meeting their victims IC3 The second stage involves contact; the scammer almost always initiates communication with the victim.
Romance scams are gender neutral, equally targeting male and female online daters. Furthermore, these circumstances are often sequential; the scammer always needs more financial assistance as the desperate circumstances intensify.
Given the amount of time and effort undertaken by the scammer to set the groundwork and establish trust, many victims do not realize they are being scammed, making this activity profitable for the scammer USDOS, To enhance his credibility, Giblin claimed he was a law enforcement officer and that his father and brother were also employed with the criminal justice system LoveFraud.
After initiating contact online, he cultivated a telephone rapport with each victim over several days or weeks. They met through an American-based dating website and within a short e-mail exchange, Elena professed her love for Coffman: He discovered that Elena had been scamming several men since and had used different names and locations Pressbox. Scammers such as Elena were charming and lured innocent victims into their scams with ease; as Coffman stated: While Giblin and Inyutina acted individually, other scams displayed more organizational sophistication.
Romance scams were also conducted by pairs of individuals. The fraud against Terry McCarthy was a case in point. McCarthy searched internet sites for a possible Russian love match.
Anna Lazarev responded; after a few email exchanges, McCarthy sent her funds so that she could visit him Smh. She kept the money and stopped communication. Unlike most victims, however, McCarthy pursued matters with the Russian government. He wrote a letter directly to the Russian president Vladimir Putin asking that Anna be brought to justice Smh.
Putin ordered an investigation, which revealed that Anna and her spouse, Yuri Lazarev, were running the scam Womenrussia.
The couple also hired female acquaintances to collect wire transfers, as well as women to write romantic and flirtatious messages to victims from all over the world Womenrussia.
When Yuri and Anna Lazarev were apprehended, police found detailed biographical information for at least 70 victims Agencyscams. Another romance scam operated as a network in Nigeria. Several members comprised this scam network. During these extensive shifts, they extracted thousands of American e-mail addresses and sent off fraudulent e-mails daily, some of which were romance scams Dixon, Other members were responsible for setting up profiles, using pictures from modeling websites worldwide.
Members also included college graduates who composed romantic letters that were disseminated to victims Dixon, This collective effort resulted in the scam network receiving about seven replies daily, and as one member noted: Each type of criminal organization greatly benefits through the use of ICTs.
Loners can utilize ICTs to target victims; the combined strength and efforts of hackers is unnecessary Brenner, Small-scale scam groups with similar goals can cooperate with greater ease and speed. Hierarchy disappears, paving the way for a lateral networked structure, with loosely-structured sub-networks and global coalitions that are transitory and goal-specific in nature Brenner, These criminal organizations often use romance scams as a precursor to other crimes, such as reshipping stolen goods, financial fraud, and identity fraud.
Identity Fraud In addition to direct emotional and financial damage, romance scams affect victims indirectly. While these victims may not encounter the scammer, their identities are exploited in various sweetheart swindles. Identity is a complex and multi-faceted concept that can be divided into three categories: Thus, personal and social identity are concepts of inclusiveness, whereby individuals establish group membership through similarity to others, while legal identity differentiates individuals from others and is a means of establishing individuality and personhood Finch, Identity fraud involves the impersonation of another person for a particular purpose after which imposters reverts to their own identity, while identity theft involves the total abandonment of one identity and the complete assumption of another, distinct identity Berg, ; Finch, Identity fraud involves the appropriation of legal identity, which is concerned with the ability to authenticate claims to be a particular individual.
Nigerian-based romance scams typically utilized photographs from modeling sites, such as Focus Hawaii Datingnmore. Scammers patiently sifted through various photo galleries and selected the most lucrative pictures for their profiles. Alternatively, scammers took photos and profiles of innocent customers registered at legitimate dating sites to create a deliberately misleading impression as to aspects of their identity Datingnmore.
The absence of in-person interaction and other sensory cues visual appearance, sound, and so on available in the real world to authenticate identity contribute significantly to the potential for protecting, modifying, or otherwise misrepresenting identity.
Yet another source for scammers was using easily available images on the internet. In , Frost was tracked down, sent flowers, and recognized at several public airports by women he had never met DeBrosse, Similarly, the abovementioned Lazarev duo had taken pictures of women who had no knowledge that their images were being circulated online as marriage partners, or that victims were being asked for money in their names Agencyscams.
Another form of identity fraud occurred when scammers sent copies of altered passports and US visas to assure victims who doubted their existence and their intent to visit OSAC, The internet also gave romance scammers access to personal information; they were able to sift through official sources in online identity databases to find suitable victims, acquire sufficient information about them, and then assume their identity.
Fraudsters who were intent on committing financial fraud targeted individuals that had solid credit ratings and easily accessible credit card or bank account information. In order to pay membership fees at dating websites, scammers engaged in financial identity fraud; they hacked into eBay and similar sites to access credit card numbers DeBrosse, Furthermore, they used these stolen credit cards to buy flowers or candy to further demonstrate their love for the victim Sullivan, Scammers sometimes required assistance with re-shipping items that were often purchased with stolen credit cards to various Nigerian locations Sullivan, Thus, as Finch noted, cyberspace weakened the adherence of legal identity to its rightful owner and permitted scammers to access a far wider range of potential victims.
Not only did cyberspace offer imposters anonymity and security from detection, it also disassociated them from any accountability, thereby permitting them to act criminally with little remorse and consequence. Organizing Romance Scams Law enforcement authorities and the dating industry claimed that romance scams operated as organized crime BBC, ; Enoch, As one security expert stated: Small organized and transient networks of criminals are far more common; they coalesce to commit specific crimes and disband upon their completion Bullock et al.
The national police forces in the U. Are cyber-sweetheart scams conducted as organized crime, crimes that are organized, or crimes that range in organizational complexity? What characteristics of organized crime are evident in these scams? Do ICTs alter some of these characteristics?
Addressing these questions requires identifying which organized crime characteristics fit each type of scammer listed above Table 2. First, not all the scamming operations were conducted by groups of criminals; several romantic swindles were committed by either individuals working alone or small groups of criminals. For instance, Giblin and Elena duped several victims on their own, while the Lazarev scam initially enjoyed success with just two members. Each sub-network worked together to successfully implement cyber crimes.
What organizational structure did scam networks exhibit? Online romance scam networks did not have strict membership criteria; the Lazarev group and the Nigerian network were flexible and hired members as needed. Regardless of the size of membership, group codes were non-existent; the only common goal shared by all scammers was to make money.
Furthermore, scammers did not exhibit the property of continuity; scammers generally vanished when they reached their monetary goals or when they were exposed. Also, scammers engaged in extensive planning to ensure the smooth execution of their crimes; they groomed their victims for extended time periods and sweet talked them into giving up their finances.
But what organizational structure did these scam networks exhibit? Lemieux identifies the main roles inherent in most criminal networks of any size. At the core of a criminal network are the organizers, who determine the nature and scope of activities Lemieux, The extenders are responsible for the expansion of the criminal network.
They recruit new members and encourage collaboration with other illegal businesses, government and justice. In scam networks, it appeared that the same individuals acted as both organizers and extenders, recruiting members with varying skills typing, English proficiency, hacking as needed to ensure the successful overall operation of the criminal enterprise.
The executors are responsible for carrying out the objectives of the organizers. They implement the attacks according to the plans laid out by the organizers and possess the specialized skills necessary to successfully carry out the operation. In romance scam networks, executors were those who could speak foreign languages, compose flirtatious letters, write e-mails, and speak on the phone with their victims to keep them engaged in the scams CBC, Enforcers are the protectors of the criminal network and they take the necessary measures to ensure compliance from victims Lemieux, While the use of corruption was not evident in the above scam examples, the use of emotional blackmail and extortion were evident.
In cases where scammers were exposed, they swore that they fell in love with the victim. This technique was effective because victims already had a strong bond with their scammers Romancescams.
In scams where webcams were used by victims, fraudsters recorded webcam videos and later used these to extort money to prevent releasing films and pictures to porn sites Romancescams. Money movers collect money from the victims and return it back to their criminal enterprise.