Sierra leone dating scams

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The scammer will tell you an elaborate fake story about large amounts of money 'trapped' in central banks during civil wars or coups, often in countries currently in the news.

Or they may tell you about a large inheritance that is 'difficult to access' because of government restrictions or taxes in their country.

But authorities fear the scam -- which relies on the false belief that gold can be bought there at a fraction of world prices -- is ruining efforts to rebrand Sierra Leone as a serious investment venue a decade after civil war. European embassies have reported similar cases without giving details of the extent of the losses.

"They are causing us a lot of problems in government," said attorney-general Frank Kargbo. Sierra Leone's gold exports stood at 270,234 grams in 2010, more than double the 2008 figure.

Wendy, 60, from Perth was new to computers and the internet when she met a man on an online dating service claiming to be a soldier.

"John" said he was in the United States Army and was posted overseas.

The man had used the identity of a dead soldier and swindled Wendy out of ,000 over 12 months. "I've lost everything, I've lost my house, I think I had a minor breakdown, as such," she said.

Gold has enjoyed a meteoric rise in value over much of the past decade as nervous investors seek a safe haven.

The scam itself is a riff on the time-honoured advance fee fraud, known in West Africa as '419' after the section of the Nigerian penal code that prohibits it.

Punters are shown a small quantity of real gold, with the promise of much more at a low price.

He claimed he wanted to get out of the army and needed help financially so Wendy obliged.

It was only when Wendy was contacted by the major fraud squad that she realised she had been scammed.

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