Cue up the wedding music. Turn on the PC. You may not kiss the computer screen. Yes, internet marriages are becoming more common, but could that also mean that marriage frauds could become more common and easier to do too?
Britain recently uncovered a 20 million pound marriage scam involving cash for brides from Eastern countries. The brides were bought and paid for, in order to get access to benefits and jobs in Great Britain. It has been called the largest marriage scam uncovered, to date.
In the U.S. three brothers were recently found guilty of “participating in a conspiracy to enter into marriages for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws, making false statements to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and unlawfully attempting to procure naturalization and citizenship.” Apparently the three men in question paid women to marry them and set up a scheme where they would convince U.S. authorities of their happily married status, so that they could become citizens. They now face prison time and deportation.
“True Love or Marriage Fraud” took an inside look at the problems with marriage fraud in Canada. stating that,
Canada is, perhaps, the easiest among all developed countries in which to commit marriage fraud — and without any repercussions. Around one thousand cases marriage fraud are reported to the government every year – stories of would-be immigrants who woo and marry Canadians as a doorway into Canada.
One artist from Ottawa says of the Canadian system, “The easiest way to become a permanent resident in this country is to get married. As soon as you step into the country you’re granted permanent residency status. There’s no other country that grants this…..I was duped into marrying this man who had no intention of staying with me.”
Reporting marriage fraud requires determining who is the appropriate government agency. In the United States that is the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and sometimes will include the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). In Canada you should contact the Citizenship Immigration Canada (CIC) or Canada Border Services Agency. Those in the United Kingdom would most like report to the UK Border Agency.
Signs you may be getting scammed in an Internet marriage or relationship:
- intense courtship that happens quickly and maybe a little too easily
- your special someone is not feeling all that special – possibly in the depths of despair because of a need for money due to financial hardship or family illness
- a request, which is made to sound romantic, for expensive gifts, for example, I could talk to you more if you got me the new iPad
- requests to help them transfer money out of their country (it could be a more romantic version of the Nigerian Lotto Scam)
- continued requests to ask for money – supposedly so they could travel to see you but they never arrive.
- pictures and other details just don’t match up
- avoid request for information you aren’t comfortable with from relationship questions to finances, especially avoid providing any information about banks, credit cards, investments etc.
Sometimes the parties are aware that they are committing a fraud. In some cases, one party of the other may be unaware or may have felt forced into the marriage by cultural or familial pressures. Make sure to collect all your facts when making your report. These facts should include:
- Full names of the parties and any variations
- Addresses, telephone numbers, online accounts (Skype names etc).
- Dates, times and locations of conversations
- Copies of emails
- Screen shots of online dating service if used
Not all internet marriages are frauds and it is really not that unusual. The New York Times recently reported on the increasing number of internet marriages that are occurring in international communities throughout the United States. The service was conducted via Skype with officials, both religious and government represented in New York and Bangladesh. However, there are risks associated with internet marriages and it’s important to remain skeptical.