In 2018, Australian grandmother Maria Exposto was sentenced to death in Malaysia for drug trafficking. Ironically, her nightmare began with one of the happiest moments of her life when she fell in love with an online match named Daniel. In truth, this cyber connection was an elaborate scam designed to illicit funds from gullible victims to bankroll criminal operations. Maria's story is not unique. Meet the Scammers explores the world of online romance scams, the predators who initiate them, and the vulnerable lonely hearts who fall prey to them.
Through the testimonies of these victims, we are able to piece together the elements of a successful con in the modern age of social media. In one case, a young military veteran discovered that his pictures were being used in one such scam. The thief brazenly stole the veteran's photos from his social media accounts, concocted a heroic narrative around them, and successfully seduced a love-struck single woman to the tune of $40,000. He was recently discovered and arrested in Nigeria.
In West Africa, the filmmakers discover a massive online scamming culture in full bloom. Internet cafes are filled with young conmen who extract money from their online victims on a daily basis. Many change their gender based upon the desires of their prey. They are emboldened by the anonymity of the platform. Their favorite victims are the recently divorced or widowed.
The filmmakers track down a few of the scammers who prosper by engaging in these illegal activities. They are surprisingly open about their tactics of seduction. They feel pity for their victims at times, but their need for money trumps these empathetic instincts. They are desperate to escape poverty, cannot make an adequate living through legitimate means, and refuse to acknowledge the illegality of their actions.
Others take the practice of online fraud to a different extreme. These offenders are part of a global network which officials refer to as the new Mafia. They're responsible for rising rates of money laundering, drug and sex trafficking.
Meet the Scammers is a frightening look at a disturbing widespread phenomenon. The film provides insights that can help us become more assertive in our lowest moments of vulnerability.