Valentines Beware: Romance Scams Break Hearts and Empty Wallets

Counterfeit Romeos and Femmes Fictionale Appeal to Religion, Build Trust
to Defraud Farmers, Divorcees and People with Disabilities, Agari Warns

the next-generation Secure Email Cloud that restores trust to the inbox,
today published a report uncovering a Nigeria-based gang of scam
artists, dubbed Scarlet
, who have left a trail of broken hearts and emptied bank

Scarlet Widow uses fake personas including “Laura Cahill,” a Texan model
working in Paris; “Starling Micheal,” a handsome United States Army
captain stationed in Afghanistan, whose perfect woman “has a trusting
mind to fall in love;” and “Lisa Frankel,” a Norwegian saleswoman eager
to visit the United States, looking for an “honest and caring man to
date and have as my future husband.”

According to Agari, a Texas man was conned out of more than $50,000 by
“Laura Cahill.” The romance lived only by email, as the two never met or
spoke on the phone. But the man opened a joint bank account that let her
bilk him out of tens of thousands of dollars, ignoring the warnings of
friends and family that he was being conned.

“It is important to raise awareness about romance scams since its
victims are often too embarrassed to report the crime,” said Crane
Hassold, Sr. Director of Threat Intelligence, Agari. “Romance scams are
devastating for its victims, who may suffer great financial hardship and
psychological trauma as a result.”

Scammers like Scarlet Widow target thousands of people at a time, using
volume to make up for a low probability that any single email succeeds.
Previous Agari research
found that initial romance scam emails succeed fewer than once per 750
emails, but successful scams can net hundreds of thousands of dollars,
allowing some members of scam groups to fly first class and buy luxury

Scarlet Widow posts fake personas on the largest dating websites like
Match, eHarmony, and OKCupid, as well as targeting relationship seekers
on more specialized sites, such as,, and It also uses sites
for people seeking partners in the U.S. military, including

Once “Laura Cahill” or another fake persona receives an initial
response, the scammer talks of her faith in God and the importance of
trust, evidently leading some victims to suspend their natural
skepticism. The enhanced trust of the victim may help them overlook
obvious clues that Laura isn’t who she says she is, like her bizarre
comments in one email: “I also have several pairs of shoes…I use facial
cleansers at times, Lotions and eye creams. I generally don’t smell.”

The Agari Cyber Intelligence Division (ACID) is the only
counterintelligence research team dedicated to worldwide Business Email
Compromise (BEC) and spearphishing investigation. ACID uncovers identity
deception tactics, criminal group dynamics, and trends in advanced email
attacks, and helps mitigate cybercrime activity by working with law
enforcement and other trusted partners.

Read the Agari

Download Scarlet
Widow: Breaking Hearts for Profit

About Agari

Agari is transforming the legacy Secure Email Gateway with its
next-generation Secure Email Cloud™ powered by predictive AI. Leveraging
data science and real-time intelligence from trillions of emails, the
Agari Identity Graph™ detects, defends, and deters costly advanced email
attacks including business email compromise, spear phishing and account
takeover. Winner of the 2018 Best Email Security Solution by SC
Magazine, Agari restores trust to the inbox for government agencies,
businesses, and consumers worldwide. Learn more at


Clinton Karr

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