Being single may be tough, and many people think they’ve hit the romance jackpot when they join any one of conventional dating sites on the Internet and begin being contacted by attractive potential mates. However, these potential mates are not always who they seem to be.
Many dating sites charge their clients a membership fee in order to communicate with other members. On the surface, this seems to be a common requirement of higher-class dating sites. However, for scammers, this is a significant sign that daters have money and are highly motivated to find a mate. Their financial status and motivation to find a significant other make them especially vulnerable to scammers who pretend to fall in love with the member, but in reality only want his or her money.
The romance scams originated with the old Nigerian email scams where the recipient gets an email from a person in a “high position of authority” who needs their assistance in transferring thousands (if not millions) of dollars to a United States bank account. The email says that the recipient will get a majority of the money transfer in exchange for his or her trouble. The Nigerian will only ask for a few thousand dollars in return. In reality, what happens is that the recipient ends up owing his or her bank for the thousand dollars (or more) that the Nigerian requests. This scam is used as a lottery scam, too, where people are told they’ve won a million dollars and all they have to do is pay a few hundred dollars in fees in order to get the winnings. As people started to catch on to these scams, scammers resorted to finding new ways to bilk people out of their money.
Dating sites have become their new playgrounds. With millions of people joining dating sites worldwide, there are plenty of potential victims for scammers to find.
The scam begins with false dating profiles. Scammers lift pictures from social media sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc.) or modeling sites. The photos always feature attractive men or women. Typically, the profile owner is said to be an American or Brit who is working out of the country (usually in Nigeria, Ghana or other African nation) as a nurse, engineer or other steady career choice. The profile language paints the person as an upstanding citizen who is responsible, leading a common middle-class lifestyle and wishes to be loved by someone.
Usually, scammers are male, but they may pretend to be men or women online. Through correspondence that may last several months or nearly a year, the scammer develops a romantic relationship with the innocent dater. Scammers are very diligent to gain a victim’s trust. Throughout the buttering up period, the scammer may send the victim some trinkets or flowers to let them know they are for real and to reel them in even further. However, at some point in the online relationship, the tables turn slightly and it becomes time to hone in on the victim.
When it becomes time for payday, the scammer creates an event that requires financial assistance. Some scammers set up a time to travel to meet their online romantic interest. During his or her travels, he or she reports to the girlfriend or boyfriend that he or she has been robbed and needs money wired to him or her immediately. Or, the scammer reports that he or she has been in a terrible accident and is in the hospital. As a result of the hospitalization, he or she needs money to help pay the bills. After your online boyfriend or girlfriend gets money from you the first time, he or she continues to have tragedy after tragedy that requires your financial assistance.
You will never meet your romantic interest, and the only connection you have with him or her is the ongoing flow of money from you to them.
Another way that scammers get to their online romantic partners is to ask for help in cashing money orders. Some scammers tell their boyfriends or girlfriends that their employers pay them with money orders, which are difficult to cash in their country. They send the money order to the boyfriend or girlfriend, with the request that money be wired to them in exchange for the money order. Typically, the victims deposit these funds into their bank accounts and wire the money, only to be alerted by their banks a few days later that the money orders were fraudulent and not worth the apparent face value.
Daters on these dating sites are especially vulnerable, because they trust sites that appear to have policies to protect their clients. Sites that require payment for membership lead members to believe that they screen their dating profiles, police inappropriate online behavior and have some control over their online content. However, it is nearly impossible for dating sites to completely ensure that members’ dating profiles are not created by scammers.
The bottom line for online daters who join dating sites is to always keep your money to yourself. Be aware that dating sites, while administrators may have good intentions, cannot protect you from scammers. The number of false profiles often vastly outnumber the authentic ones. While some people have genuinely met their soulmates on online dating sites, the odds that that perfect person you’ve met who is working overseas is your one true love is slim. Remember that there are no American or British models, engineers, nurses or others who are stranded in some African nation and need your help to get money to come home. That’s just a simple fact.
As a result, it becomes even more understandable why many people elect to see an escort instead of joining the Internet dating world. Escorts have reviews that are available online, they are available to meet with in person and you have an instant opportunity to start your “professional” relationship with an escort instead of having to wait months for him or her to visit you from overseas. Escorts have websites and other information that is usually verifiable through cross-referencing, and scammers don’t try to fake escort ads.