A 2-Year Romance Scam with Many Moving Parts:
(Published 8/13/23) A woman in South Africa reached out to us on July 27, 2023 to tell us about a Romance scammer who has targeted her for the last two years, and as recently as this past March. We spoke to her over Zoom to learn the details of this lengthy scam and were amazed by the many ways that this team of scammers had targeted her. It all started as a romance scam from a man identified as “Anthony Andrey.” To protect her identity, we’ll call this woman “Stacey.”
In September 2021, Stacey downloaded the free dating app called Badoo and set up an account. She says that within ten minutes a man’s profile popped up for her that she described as “good looking, but not too good looking.” They started to chat and he almost immediately said “let’s continue this chat on Whatsapp.” (That is considered a red flag due, in large part, to how quickly he wanted to move the chat away from any protective guard rails or monitors in Badoo. Stacey knew this was a bit concerning but made the decision to do it anyway.) The man’s name was given as Anthony Andrey. He told Stacey that he was leaving Capetown, South Africa in two days and headed to the United States for business. Anthony also said that he was a gem dealer and sent her a photo of himself having lunch in his apartment in Capetown. At this point, Stacey said that she had no reason to doubt him.
Three days later, Stacey got a phone call from Anthony to say he had landed in Detroit, Michigan. He mentioned that it was a very long flight and he wasn’t feeling well so he was going to a doctor’s office. Oddly, the next day, Anthony asked Stacey if she wouldn’t mind accessing his bank account with Yorkshire Capital Bank (website: yorkshirecapitalbnk[.]com; this website is no longer available) The reason he gave her was that he could not access his bank account from anywhere but in South Africa. Stacey agreed. (There are two HUGE red flags here….An account that can’t be accessed outside of the country, especially when he knew he would be away on business, AND asking a stranger for help like this!) After logging into Anthony’s account, Anthony asked her to transfer 100,000 UK Pounds into a Bank of America account. However, the bank asked Stacey for a “TAC” code in order to make the transfer and Stacey didn’t understand what that was. She reached out to the bank via email and they informed her that it was a fee for a “tech code” and it was going to cost 7000 Rand (approximately $369, 336 Euros, 290 Pounds Sterling) The bank added that it will be refunded back into her account in about a day. (Click image to enlarge.)
It’s important to keep in mind that Stacey was communicating in real time via email with the bank and trying to help out Anthony with this money transfer. She was the one being asked to pay this TAC code fee. It wasn’t to be taken from Anthony’s account, she was informed, because his bank account hadn’t received the transfer code. She was the one making the transfer and the code was provided to her. (Of course, this logic makes no sense but in the moment, Stacey wasn’t sure how to proceed. She told us that, though it made her nervous to do this, she had access to Anthony’s bank account and saw that he had about 62 million UK Pounds in it! She felt pretty confident that he would pay her back. Also, the bank advised her that the money would be refunded into her account the next day.) Stacey even took a photo of his account balance because she couldn’t believe it was so much!) Via a chat window on the bank website and email, Stacey spoke with a man named William at the bank who confirmed that she had paid the TAC fee and she could expect to be refunded within 24 hours. Now that the “TAC” code was paid for, she tried again to transfer Anthony’s 100,000 UK Pounds as he requested. She entered the TAC code into the correct field on the Bank’s website. This request returned an error message, asking Stacey for a new transfer code. Now Stacey felt that something was “off” and thought to herself “what the hell is this!”
Stacey contacted Anthony and told him the story of what she had to go through to make this money transfer, and after paying for a TAC code, getting an error message and asking for another code. She told him “never in my life have I every heard about the need to buy a transfer code to transfer money!” Anthony urged her to simply pay the TAC fee again and said that he would pay her back. This time the fee was 8000 Rand (about $422, $384 Euros or 331 Pounds Sterling). Stacey justified this effort because the bank assured her that these fees would be refunded into her account within 24 hours and if not, she felt that Anthony would pay her back from his significant financial resources.
Again, Anthony asked Stacey to make a second bank transfer for him to the States and this time the bank asked her for an “IMF” code. Now Stacey was outright suspicious that this was all a fraud. She did a Google search about needing an IMF code to transfer money and found links saying that such transfer codes were scams. We found one such post here on Quora.com:
Stacey told Anthony that she wouldn’t make the transfer and simply waited the remainder of the 24 hours for her refund of both TAC fees. Remarkably, the refund was paid BUT it was sent into Anthony’s bank account at Yorkshire Capital Bank, and not into Stacey’s bank account! By this time, Stacey was very angry and told William at the bank that “they were going to hell” and she reported the Yorkshire Capital Bank to the UK Banking Authority in London.
Stacey was also very angry at Anthony and said she wouldn’t take any of his phone calls for a couple of weeks, until she finally picked up one day. When she did speak to Anthony, he told her that SHE caused big trouble for him because his bank account was now frozen! Stacey replied loudly with “YOU are scamming me! I still don’t have my refund! It’s in your account!” Anthony promised to sort it all out when he returned to S.Africa but right now he was in a hospital and was at risk of dying from his illness and, essentially, stranded because he had no money available! (He sent her a photo of himself in a hospital bed, with an IV bag and needle in his arm, but Stacey had deleted all of his photos and had none to share with us.) Worsening Anthony’s problems was the fact that it was now early November and his US Visa had expired, he said. However, what Anthony didn’t know is that Stacey had contacted the Belgium Embassy in S. Africa because Anthony had told Stacey that he was from Brussels, but living in S. Africa. Though Stacey was angry with him, she was still a caring and kind person and hoped that the Brussels Embassy could help him. She email them and explained the whole story to one of the embassy staff in Cape Town. She pleaded with them “can you please contact your citizen? He’s stranded in the US and he needs to get home. You can repatriate him and he can then take care of these debts and pay me back. I’ve seen his bank account and he is in good standing!” Stacey provided his name, Anthony Andrey, along with his phone number. The Embassy staff said they would look into this, no problem. However, at the end of that November day, the Embassy staff called Stacey back and said “we have no citizen of that name.”
During the next few weeks, Anthony continued to call and reach out to Stacey via Whatsapp, asking for money. He claimed to be starving and living on the streets in the United States. Of course, by now, Stacey knew that “Anthony Andrey” was a complete fraud. In one call with “Anthony” she told him to turn himself in to the police and say he was an illegal immigrant because then the police will kick him out of the country and return him home! Anthony didn’t like that option. Stacey didn’t hear from Anthony again until a couple of months later in January, 2022. He reached out again and said he was now back in S. Africa. He had managed to get his travel agent to reissue his return ticket. However, now, he says, he’s got to travel to London to visit Yorkshire Capital Bank in person to sort out the freeze on his multi-million pound account! Since Anthony claimed that his bank account was frozen as a results of Stacey reporting him and the bank, Anthony wanted HER to send him money to travel to London from S. Africa! Stacey’s response was a loud protest… “I can’t! I won’t! I will not!” Followed by “Anthony, you’ve got two cars, a BMW and a 4×4 Land Rover. Let me get the company We Buy Cars to your home. You can sell them one of your cars, give me the money and then I can start helping you.” He agreed that this was a good idea but called later to say that he can’t do it because his new girlfriend (a woman named Sandra) says it will cost 18,000 Rand to get them out of storage where they have been sitting for months. (Anthony didn’t explain WHY he couldn’t do get the cars himself or why they had to be in storage in the first place.)
Keep in mind that by now, after about 4 months with Anthony, Stacey was certain he was a scammer. When I asked her why she continued to take his calls or not call him out as a complete fraud, Stacey said “I was curious to see where this was going to go. I knew my bank account was safe and I wasn’t going to give him any more money. But I now wanted to know what this man was all about.” Anthony continued to push his story of needing 18,000 Rand to get his cars out of storage. But now, Stacey was creating her own narrative! She told Anthony that she actually had an interested buyer for one of his cars! If only he could get that car and show the interested buyer! And she reiterated that she can’t help him with money OR getting back to London to sort out his bank troubles. Anthony went “radio silent” for about a month.
After a month, Stacey got another call from Anthony Andrey. He didn’t sort out the London bank but he was back in the US for business. (He never explained how/where he got the money to support himself or his travels since his bank account was, presumably, still frozen. By now, Stacey is laughing quietly at his attempts to manipulate her. Anthony again disappeared for months. Fast forward to December, 2022 and Stacey’s phone rings. It’s Anthony Andrey, or whatever his name really is. He says “Listen, my bank account is still frozen. I’ve got everything I own right now of value packed in a box and I’m sending it to you. It’s jewels and diamonds and….”(Stacey added “whatever.”) Apparently, Anthony had returned to get his “worldly goods” in the USA and was going to ship them to Stacey to have as collateral for the cash and help he needed from her! We also learned from Stacey that, at this time, Anthony said his Yorkshire Capital Bank account had converted his $62 million UK Pounds into $92 million US Dollars! (This is especially remarkable since we can easily look up the average conversion rates offered in December, 2022 from Pounds Sterling to US Dollars. At best, and with a generous conversation, Anthony’s 62 million pounds should have been worth no more than $75 million USD.)
Break out your violins because, quite sadly, these many months later, Anthony claimed that his bank account at Yorkshire Capital was still frozen and he had no access to his funds. Stacey finally said to him that both HE and YORKSHIRE CAPITAL BANK were both scams! Stacey saw that, by December 2022, the Yorkshire Capital Bank website had been completely taken offline. Stacey told him “you’re lucky you’re not yet arrested because I want you arrested!” It is at this point in our conversation that Stacey paused and said “by the way, during all of this, Anthony is telling me he loves me and wants to marry me.” Stacey, quite sarcastically added “We’ll have a beautiful life together.” Anthony ignored Stacey’s calling him out as a scammer and said he would ship the parcel of gems to her, BUT, she must agree to simply hold onto the box of gems and not sell them. Stacey, in a sarcastic tone, replied with “I would never do that.” She said that when it arrives she will take it directly to her local police and open it in front of them, after explaining her story to them. She implied to Anthony that she no longer trusted him, and she told us that it could be anything in that box, including drugs or stolen goods! But, would she actually get this box? More games are afoot, to paraphrase Mr. Sherlock Holmes!]
Stacey told us that in January, 2023 Anthony told her to expect to hear from a company about the delivery of the box to her. He even sent her photos of the box. Soon after, she received an email from a company called “Allied Logistics”
On Thu, 12 Jan 2023, 09:32 , <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
A consignment from Mr. Anthony lugi Andrey was sent from Maryland USA to you. For now, the entire package is at the checkpoint here at Lesotho for screening process before being delivered to your home address. Meanwhile, the shipment was heavy with incur local taxes that VAT must be pay. According to the crew members, the amount payable related to tax is $2500 US dollars (Two Thousand Five Hundred US Dollars). Once the designated clearing agent has completed the documentation process will be awaiting the payment of such amount.
The local tax is required according to regulatory policy. Please note that all fees are paid to the competent authority through the designated agent. All taxes are remitted to the competent authority by the agent in your region. The aim is to facilitate the entire clearing process at the checkpoint.
You remain liable to pay the local tax of $2500 specified below. Designated Agent immediately we confirm your email.
Note: You will need to get back to us as soon as you receive this message to enable us to send you the designated agent information for you to send this money. Immediately the payment is received, I shall proceed to the clearing unit and have the receipts collected which I will be bringing to you for your perusal. We will send you the account officer in charge of your registration of your consignment boxes and parcel as soon as possible. your consignment box has been scanned successfully pending on delivery. Immediately payment has been made we shall proceed with the delivery of your consignment boxes to your doorstep.
Awaiting your reply, we expect a long and distinguished service to you.
ALEX GOODWILL (C.S.O)
ALLIED LOGISTIC AND DELIVERY SERVICE.
WhatsApp Number: +1 (909) 968-4183
Calling Line: +1 (909) 968-4183
As you can guess, the email from Mr. Goodwill above contains several serious red flags including the fact that the use of English is very poor in the email and the fact that no website can be found at either alliedlogistics[.]eisecs[.]com or simply eisecs[.]com! Also, a Google search for Mr. Goodwill’s phone number only shows malicious websites in Russia and a Google search for the exact name “ALLIED LOGISTIC AND DELIVERY SERVICE” shows nothing at all by that name! (The domain eisecs[.]com was registered in Iceland through Namecheap in early March, 2021.) Stacey told us that she tried Googling this company and found information on Scamadviser.com stating that this “logistics” company was likely a scam.
Stacey actually spoke to a man who identified himself as “Christopher” from Allied Logistics. Christopher was calling to inform Stacey that she must pay the “landing fees” in order to receive the package sent by Anthony. Stacey confidently replied with “I’ll tell you what, I’m not paying a cent to deliver anything to me!” Christopher tried to argue with her and she interrupted him…. “Speak to Anthony Andrey! You’ve already got his number. I’m not paying for anything!” Then, on January 25, 2023 Stacey gets an email from Anthony that included a photograph of a receipt for a $1,000 deposit into a Chase Bank account. Anthony claims that it is his proof that he paid half of the landing fees for the package and he said that she should pay the other half! (We find it interesting that Anthony claims to have flown to Detroit, Michigan where he immediately claimed to be sick and looking for a doctor. But this receipt shows a deposit for $1000 being made in a Chase Bank branch in Placentia, California.) (Click image to enlarge.)
Christopher from Allied Logistics contacted Stacey again to tell her that both he and her package were now in the country Lesotho, South Africa. Stacey boldly told Christopher that both “HE and the PACKAGE can stay in Lesotho and do what you like with the parcel.” And, she added “your website is a scam!” Christopher responded that he was terribly insulted and how dare she speak to him that way, blah, blah, blah. Stacey hung up on him! Then she spoke to Anthony and berated him for being stupid enough to use a fake shipping company to “send all your worldly valuable belongings to me. It’s on you!” Of course, Anthony disagreed with Stacey’s evaluation of the Allied Logistics shipping company, and Stacey planted a “Whatever!”
Sometime in late February, or early March of this year (Stacey isn’t certain), she unexpectedly received an email from the United States Military! The sender claimed to be in charge of ALL imports and exports from ALL the airports in the United States! He was contacting Stacey because his boss had told him to get rid of all the packages that have not shipped out to their destinations yet. Apparently, Anthony’s box had somehow been returned from Lesotho, South Africa BACK TO the US. The Military person said that since no one had claimed the package, he could open and inspect it. This is when he found Millions of US Dollars inside the box, and contacted Stacey, as the box was supposed to have been shipped to her. The Military person offered to take 30% of the money in the box and to send the remaining 70% to her! (I congratulated her on her new found wealth.) To keep this scam alive and waste their time, Stacey said “This is cool! Now how much must I pay to get that package of sent to me?” He responded with $500 and then he’ll ship her 70% to her address in S. Africa. Stacey then made some off-color remarks to the person that we’ll translate less colorfully as “go away” and “it’s not going to happen.” She also pointed out that usmilitary @ yahoo[.]com was not a credible email for the United States Military! (We agree!)
Looking back on this scam, Stacey is amazed at the concerted effort these scammers have made to target her for almost two years! She has since blocked all of Anthony’s many cell phone numbers he had given her during this time. She said it was at least 30 different phone numbers! (This is also a serious red flag because the constant phone number changes are tricks scammers use to protect themselves!) We asked her if she had ever had a video chat with Anthony. Her response? NEVER! It was always a phone call, text, Whatsapp or email. All of these facts are also MAJOR red flags that you’re dealing with a scammer! In the end, she told us that her “vocabulary was like a fisherman or a pirate” when speaking with Anthony that last time in March to tell him what she really thought of him!
What was very informative for us at The Daily Scam, was that this initial “Romance Scam” included elements of “Advance fee” scams, fake banking website scams and fake shipping business scams, finally followed by an imposter at an airport operated by the United States Military! Though we have no proof, our experience has taught us that cybercriminals in Africa, especially operating in Zimbabwe and Nigeria, are most responsible for this type of fraud. We asked Stacey how Anthony sounded to her and she said that he sounded European, and possibly from Belgium. He says “ello” for example, instead of “hello.” He calls her “honey” and “baby” and uses the expression “heavens above.” The Cambridge dictionary says that this is an old-fashioned phrase meaning surprise, similar to “good heavens!” Anthony also said “I want to spit in your face” when she said she was done with him! She said “I’ve given you enough reasonable options that anyone can understand and I’m not doing it anymore. And I’m not sending you money!” Anthony sent Stacey multiple photos over the nearly two years of their online relationship but she was so pissed off when it ended that she deleted all of them. And so, sadly, we don’t know what images this scammer chose to look like, but we’re pretty certain it was not the face of the real man (men) behind these scams!