There are countless people looking for love, romance and commitment and scammers think these people are easy marks. Numerous scammers spend their days pretending to be in love with various people and building a relationship to the point where they ask for money and sometimes get it. When the prospective partner stops paying then the scammer moves on to new victims.
This is cynical, nasty and immoral.
In 2016, almost 15,000 complaints categorized as romance scams or confidence fraud were reported to IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Centre) and that’s up on the previous year. The losses associated with those complaints exceeded $230 million
How Do They Con People?
Scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and use other people’s pictures and background. They typically pick someone on the Internet who is very attractive and copy their photo and details. They then amend the details to make themselves desirable to the sort of victim they seek. The scammer will ask lots of questions of the victim and use the answers to make themselves appear just what the victim was looking for.
Once they have established a relationship then the requests for money start.
This might be for requests for aeroplane tickets to travel to visit the victim, medical expenses, education expenses etc. There is usually the promise that the scammer will one day join the victim in the victim's country. The scam usually ends when the victim realizes they are being scammed and stops sending money. This can be a very embarrassing and hurtful experience for the victims.
Examples of the Stories Commonly Used
1. The scammer needs the money for urgent medical treatment (or treatment for a parent or sibling).
2. The scammer says they haven’t been paid in weeks and just needs cash to tide them over till their salary is released.
3. The scammer needs money to pay for a passport or flight to meet the victim.
4. The scammer needs to pay off corrupt immigration officials.
5. The scammer has had money or valuables seized by customs and need to pay tax before it can be released.
6. The scammer needs money to pay the phone bill or Internet bill in order to stay in communication
The Fake Military Personnel Scam
This is a variant on the usual romance scam, where the scammer pretends to be in the armed forces.
Here’s an excerpt of a typical email interaction between a scammer and a woman (complete with spelling mistakes).
hello dear what is a beautiful woman like you doing here, do yoy mean no men with eyes in [city]..you are beautifull, i am not always here you can drop your email or yahoo messanger id so we could chat more...bye
He has excuses why you cannot phone him, skype, Face time or any other way of seeing him Live as that would show up that he’s not an American military man – just a scammer using someone else photos off the Internet.
The website www.scamwarners.com has a lot of information on the scammers who impersonate military personnel, so if you’re unsure of someone claiming to be in the military, then try scamwarners.com
http://fightback.ninja/the-fake-military-personnel-scam/ for more details.
The professional dater is different from the standard online scammer as s/he will likely meet the victim face-to-face.
The scammer may ask for gifts from the victim or use a set of stories as listed above to get money from the victim.
In some cases, the professional dater even arranges for a visit to his country. Once there. The victim is taken to lots of places and meets various people working with the scammer (taxi drivers, retailers, hoteliers, restaurateurs etc.). The end result is a very expensive holiday for the victim.
The relationship goes nowhere and the victim returns home lighter in pocket but still believing. The requests for money continue until the victim realises it was a scam.
The Warning signs of an Online Romance Scam
You meet someone online and after just a few contacts they profess strong feelings for you, and ask to chat with you privately - that may be infatuation or maybe it’s a scammer trying to ensnare you.
· Their profile on the internet dating website or their Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. E.g. they say they are university educated but their use of language is very basic.
· After initial communications, they have an elaborate story and ask for money or gifts.
· Their messages are often poorly written, vague and seem repetitious.
· If you don’t send money, their messages and calls become more desperate and persistent. If you do send money, they find reasons to keep asking for more.
· They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can't travel to meet you and why they always need more money.
If you see the warning signs of a scam, then talk with friends or relatives and research online to see if the photos are real (e.g. with Google image search) and check their background.
www.comparitech.com/blog/information-security/online-dating-romance-scams/ contains a lot of material about romance scams and the scammers.
Above all, do not give any money and do not give out confidential information.