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Oil Rig Romance Scam: Insights from a Private Investigator

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Oil Rig Romance Scam: Insights from a Private Investigator

As the owner of a private investigation company, I often find myself engaged in intriguing conversations while travelling, particularly when people inquire about my profession. It’s one of the most enjoyable aspects of being a private investigator in Canada. One topic specifically is Romance Scams.

I recently went on vacation in the United States, where, coincidentally, I bumped into a family friend. This man had become single just a few months prior. As we spent time together, it became evident that he was still grappling with his recent breakup and carrying insecurities from that and past relationships. Rather than taking time to heal and address these issues, he chose to dive into online dating.

As a private investigator, I’m well aware of the success stories from online dating, where individuals find happiness and meaningful relationships. However, my professional experience tells a different tale. Over the years, I’ve encountered thousands of cases where people have been scammed online in various ways. It’s truly disheartening. My agency operates across Canada and also assists American clients and others worldwide, and we frequently receive calls from victims of these scams.

Vulnerability as a Target

Scammers often target vulnerable and insecure individuals, much like this family friend. Reflecting on his recent situation, I know that he struggled in his past relationship, where he felt undervalued and unappreciated. He lacked affirmation and respect and never felt truly honoured or loved in the way he desired. These deficiencies, combined with his existing insecurities, placed him in a precarious position emotionally as he navigated the online dating scene. In my view, this made him particularly susceptible to potential scams.

The Deceptive Trap

Shortly after joining a specific dating site, a “woman” significantly younger and quite attractive contacted him. Given their apparent disparities in age and interests, as reflected in their profiles, they seemed an unlikely match. The woman’s approach to this man, considering what she and he had respectively shared about themselves online, was unexpected and raised doubts about her intentions.

She began by telling him exactly what he needed to hear: compliments on his looks and his success and affirmations that he had been mistreated in his last relationship—a relationship about which she realistically knew nothing. Soon after, she escalated to sending nude or nearly nude photos of “herself.” In a very short time, he was completely captivated, as they say, “hook, line, and sinker.” He had fallen for her and was willing to do anything for this “woman,” all within a remarkably brief period.

Unveiling the Scam

When he came to me excited about his new “girlfriend,” his first words were, “I met someone.” I asked how, and he replied, “online.” Curious, I encouraged him to tell me more about her. The moment he showed me her profile pictures, the red flags were instantly apparent. Trying not to alarm him, I casually asked to see her full profile, and the concerns only deepened. When I inquired about her location, he mentioned she was currently working on an oil rig overseas. I pressed further about her job, and he said she was a nurse from Canada. The scenario struck me as highly suspicious—a classic setup for a scam—but I continued to listen intently.

He showed me their conversation on WhatsApp, and I inquired if they had video chatted or if he had only received pictures. He explained that she claimed video chatting was impossible from the oil rig, and she could only send pictures. The images appeared to have been taken around the same time—this was evident because her clothing, hair colour, and hairstyle were consistent across all photos. If these had been genuine, taken over time, there would likely have been variations in her appearance, like changes in hair growth, tan, or nails—details most people overlook. This uniformity is often a tactic in romance scams, using a barrage of suggestive images to cloud a person’s judgment, shifting their focus from rational analysis to emotional reaction. Predators use this method intentionally to manipulate and distract their targets.

Addressing the Threat

As he spoke fondly of her, I gently pointed out the inconsistencies that suggested this was a scam. He became quite defensive, adamantly insisting that she was legitimate. I tread lightly, cautious not to upset him further, yet deeply concerned about protecting him from potential harm. Although she hadn’t yet requested money, my experience told me that it was likely the next step in the scam. I aimed to handle the situation delicately, balancing the need to protect him without causing unnecessary distress.

I questioned him again about video chatting, and he reiterated that it was blocked and they couldn’t initiate a call. To demonstrate a point, I asked to use his phone for a moment. In the WhatsApp chat, I pressed the video chat button and it dialed immediately, indicating that “she” had placed a block on her device; if her claims were true, we wouldn’t have been able to attempt a call. This effectively disproved his belief—red flag #1 was thoroughly addressed.

Facing Reality

I then cautiously tried to make him see reason, telling him, “Trust me, you won’t be meeting this woman.” He resisted, mentioning plans to pick her up from Toronto Pearson Airport the following week. I firmly responded, “I guarantee that won’t happen. This is a romance scam, likely orchestrated by someone in a country known for such frauds, like Nigeria, India, China, or Pakistan.” My goal was to protect him from further deception without undermining his feelings.

I explained to him that these operations often involve groups of individuals, typically men, who sit together in a room and manage communications with numerous targets. They create and maintain detailed profiles on each person they interact with. These scammers possess extensive knowledge about their targets, understanding exactly when to say specific things, how to speak to them, and what their likes and dislikes are. This level of detail enables them to manipulate the situation effectively.

While we talked, he let me hold his phone to review the conversation. Alarmingly, I discovered he had sent the scammers a copy of his driver’s license and disclosed a substantial amount of personal information. This left him extremely vulnerable to identity theft. The details he shared could potentially allow the scammer to breach his private accounts, especially since the security questions often involve the kind of personal information he had provided. He was manipulated into revealing this sensitive data because the scammer was telling him exactly what he wanted—and needed—to hear, exploiting his mental and emotional vulnerability.

We debated back and forth, with him staunchly defending the scammer. At this point, my concern for him overrode my restraint—I was deeply worried about the imminent financial demands I suspected were coming. It’s a common tactic for romance scammers to forge an emotional bond with their victims. Then, when family and friends raise concerns, the romance scammer manipulates the victim into defending them, often leading to isolation from loved ones. This isolation makes it easier for the scammer to strike, usually under the guise of a fabricated emergency like a sick family member or a sudden financial crisis. This is how they often manage to exploit and steal from their victims.

I said to him, “Just let me know on Tuesday what excuse she gives when you’re supposed to pick her up.” I listed several excuses I’ve encountered in my experience, like a car accident, a cancer diagnosis, a family member’s death, a lost passport, or a lost wallet needing money. By this point, he was visibly upset and adamantly insisted that she was not a scammer and that he would indeed be meeting his new girlfriend at the airport on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, as anticipated, the scammer’s litany of excuses flowed. The supposed dire situation she described was, upon scrutiny, nothing but a fabrication.

The Lesson Learned

Fortunately, this man disclosed the information to me at the right moment. Had he not, he might have fallen victim to a small initial romance scam, only to face a much larger one had he sent her the money she requested.

Protecting Yourself

Here’s advice from a professional investigator: If something sounds too good to be true, it most definitely is. Please, don’t become a victim of these predators. Gentlemen, be aware that the stunning woman in lingerie you’re chatting with may actually be a man from overseas, a skilled scammer and predator ready to exploit your vulnerabilities.

If you ever find yourself in a situation like this, it’s crucial to cease communication with the individual immediately. We’re equipped to conduct thorough background checks if you have doubts about their legitimacy. Should you suspect foul play, we’ll meticulously examine the information at hand, review conversations, and collaborate with you to ascertain the person’s true intentions.

Contact Us for Assistance

We’re passionate about preventing others from falling victim to these scams.

If you require the expertise of a private investigator to verify a romance scam, please reach out to our office today for a complimentary consultation.

The Smith Investigation Agency Inc.

Phone (Toll-Free): (888) 950-4113


About the Author

Whitney Joy Smith

Whitney Joy Smith is a prominent figure in the field of private investigation and security, serving as the founder and CEO of The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., Smith Security Inc., and Training Centre Canada, as well as a sitting politician.

With a remarkable journey that began in the early 2000s, Whitney's professional background as a private investigator is underscored by her unwavering dedication to the role. Born in Canada and having spent her early years between Canada and the United States, Whitney possesses a unique perspective shaped by her experiences in both countries. This background equips her with an in-depth understanding of the intricacies of private investigative laws, regulations, and operational standards in North America.

Throughout her career, Whitney has garnered numerous industry awards and accolades. She takes great pride in working closely with her continually expanding agency, striving to elevate industry standards, maintain compliance, and effectively meet the diverse investigative needs of clients.

Whitney actively engages in various membership, committee, board and support roles, demonstrating her commitment to the industry and professional community. She is affiliated with all local chambers, associations and more.

Whitney's wealth of experience is not limited to her professional achievements; her thought-provoking articles have been featured in publications ranging from Readers Digest, Cosmopolitan, Huffington Post, and Mens Health to Business News Daily. She constantly seeks to redefine standards and push the boundaries of excellence within the private investigative and security fields.

To discover more about Whitney Joy Smith and the dedicated team at The Smith Investigation Agency Inc., visit our website to learn more.

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