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Decoding Escalation Enticement Scams.

Escalation enticement scams are scams in which the perpetrators fleece their victims through a series of requests in which the monetary value keeps increasing in both magnitude and significance. Escalation enticement is a favorite technique for scammers for it allows them to keep their intentions hidden and prevents the would-be victims from getting suspicious. For instance, if I were to ask you for a large sum of money ($10,000 or its naira equivalent), obviously you would refuse. But if I were to begin by asking for $20 (or its naira equivalent), you wouldn’t be too suspicious and depending on the nature of our relationship might readily fulfill my request. The initial request doesn’t need to involve cash, it could be something trivial. Then from there, the requests keep increasing in both importance and magnitude.

To illustrate how this works let’s consider the true-life story of a woman who lost $70,000 to this type of scam. The woman was contacted by the scammer via social media. She had just concluded her divorce and was in a lonely and vulnerable position. He introduced himself as ‘Elias,’ that his wife had died three years ago, leaving behind a son and he was just looking to make friends. After a relationship had been established, some few months down the line, he sent a plea for help. He claimed he and his son were attacked by robbers and his son shot during the robbery. Due to a downturn of economic events, he was cash-strapped and his son would die if he couldn’t raise the money for his medical bills. Quite naturally, the woman obliged and sent the money. From then on, the nature of the requests and the amounts involved kept increasing. The scammer even successfully got the woman to lend money from other people to send to him with the promise that he would pay back with interest once he executed a project he was working on. By the time she realized what was happening she had lost a total cumulative amount of $70,000.

Escalation enticements scams are not solely restricted to boyfriend or relationship formats, scammers use many other pretexts. For example, a colleague and I once helped a guy with a lift who seemed to be stranded. He claimed he was on his way to pick up his car which had undergone repairs. During the conversation he made it known that he was in a position to secure a juicy job for just one person as where he worked had a vacancy. Before dropping him off we exchanged numbers. He later called that he was at the ATM and his atm card had been seized by the machine and he urgently needed some money.  The first thing that alerted me that this was a con was that the name he gave was different when searched against his number on truecaller. Plus, the obvious fact of why call someone whom you just met? Is he trying to say he has no friends or relations that could bail him out of an emergency other than people he just met a couple of hours earlier?

The best way to guard against such scams is to be wary of people requesting friendship through social media and other means of electronic messaging such as email. Reject friend requests from people you don’t know or whom you cannot verify or vouch for their identity. Finally, be very suspicious of a request requiring assistance of some sorts and do your due diligence.

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