While the Internet has provided a huge venue for people to meet potential mates around the world, it does have its share of scammers out to fool the innocent and unwary. A romance scam essentially occurs when strangers pretend romantic intentions, gain the affection of victims, and then use that goodwill to gain access to their victims’ money/ bank account or by getting them to commit financial fraud on their behalf.
Despite many warnings, hundreds of lonely and well-meaning online daters still fall prey to insidious scammers and heartless con artists who not only break their hearts, but break their bank accounts as well. Most of these scams seem to originate from, and are prevalent in West Africa(especially Nigeria) although they are becoming increasingly common in Russia and Eastern Europe Another emerging region is Thailand and The Phillipines or any other country where ‘mail order bridges” are available.
If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. It has been estimated that British men and women have lost more than 1 billion last year to online scams. Most of these scams come from overseas, thus detection and eventual prosecution is tricky and sometimes pointless. An online dating scam or “romance scam” happens when a scammer, either male or female, enters an online dating service or a chat room and makes contact with potential victims using invented profiles.
A lot of online dating sites accept members for free and usually don’t screen their members. This is fertile ground for scammers who love the anonymity and the venue to invent a profile that amazingly matches who you are looking for. These con artists usually tease you along, claiming to seek only a “true soul mate” and “real romance”.
They keep this front up until they are sure that you are ready to believe anything they type. The reality is, they really don’t care about you – they only want your money. But how can you tell a scam from the real thing? It can be quite difficult as most experienced scammers tread very carefully with their victims.
They usually invest weeks or months convincing the victim that they are in a loving cyber-relationship. A common sign of a dating scam is when the other party starts to ask for money to meet you.
It comes in many forms, from asking you to shoulder their plane fare because they are “broke” or asking you to sponsor their “Visa” so they can enter your country legally. They may say that they’ve been “stranded” in another country and want to come home, or that they’ve been robbed while traveling elsewhere.
Or that they actually have a “disease” or condition that they need to be in surgery for. If not surgery, they will claim that they need the cash for medicines anyway and you are the only person who can help them. When you do offer to send the money, they have no bank account where you can make a direct deposit to, so they can remain untraceable.
They prefer that you send the money via money transfer agents like Western Union. Sometimes a scam is easy to see through, like your chat partner posting an extremely gorgeous picture of himself/herself. It is not unheard of to use stolen pictures as bait to lure victims.
When you ask for your date’s phone number or address, he/she mysteriously does not answer your phone calls and has no voicemail option. Your online date also talks more about themselves than asking about you. Usually they also don’t answer a lot of your questions, or there is a delay in answering. This is likely because these scammers work on a lot of people at one time, so you are probably only one of many people he/she is chatting to and sending emails to. So how can you protect yourself? Start with never giving out any personal details to your new chat mates (home phone numbers, work address, etc). Opt for reputable dating sites and stay away from the free ones as much as you can. Try to find someone in your local area.
It also does not hurt to be skeptical if someone tries to “ping” you often, even when he/she knows you are not interested. Barrage them with a lot of questions or suggest meeting them and if they act suspiciously, you are probably dating a scammer. Bit if you’ve already lost money, there is really not a lot you can do to recover it. The best course of action would be to report the scammer’s profile to the administrators of the chat/dating site where you met him/her.