True love is something people have sought out since the dawn of humanity. Finding true love has never been easier thanks to an increasingly digital world, although sometimes, it ends up being a real nightmare.
The thing to remember is that these criminals are professionals at what they do. While most of us were working hard at learning a craft or mastering an education, they studied human emotions and how to capitalize on those emotions.
Romance scammers often use websites to find their victims. Although most reputable dating sites such as Match.com and eharmony.com work to stop scams and have several blogs about avoiding scams, some do not. Personal conversations are private, and no one but the victim and scammer is involved in the conversation. Most dating sites recommend not switching from the site’s internal messaging system to email or text messages until a person has been verified. At least it helps with identifying fake profiles.
Conversations start with immediate attention, flattery, affection, and online romantic gestures. That’s when the big reveal happens; they can’t meet because of a variety of reasons. The most common ones are:
• They work offshore.
• They are a doctor or professional working overseas with an international organization.
• They are overseas on a religious mission trip.
• They are in the military.
The professional scammers will work weeks, months, and sometimes even years building up trust with their victims. Some even go so far as to create an entire fictional family to make the exchange even more personal. They’ll talk about the future and how they can’t wait to meet or even get married.
That’s when things get serious enough to ask for financial favors. The fake sob stories begin to take place.
• They are going to get evicted if they don’t get a specific amount of money immediately.
• Their child needs an emergency medical treatment or something of that nature.
• They’re in serious trouble and need cash fast.
• They need money for utilities because a significant event has happened and cannot pay their bills.
• They need money for a visa or renewal.
The list goes on and on, but it always ends up with the victim sending money or gift cards to someone they’re madly in love with but have never met. Once the scammer realizes they have a new steady cash flow, they will leech off of the victim for as long as the money keeps coming. If the victim begins to ask questions, the scammer will mention things like marriage and children to cement the relationship and throw off suspicions.
Here are some tips to keep people safe from romance scams.
1. Never send money or gifts to a person you’ve never met in person.
2. Western Union, Money Gram, Google Play, Amazon, etc., being mentioned are dead giveaways to being scammed.
3. Tell someone you trust about the relationship and get their opinion.
4. Do due diligence in screening all online conver sations—re search romance scams before continuing conversations with potential love interests.
5. If it’s too good to be true, it usually is. Scammers are “perfect soulmates” because they are trained to be.
6. It can happen to anyone at any time. Be vigilant and on alert with all online conversations.
7. Ask for a phone conversation and a date in a public place quickly, and end chats where your questions aren’t answered. Make a list of red flags to avoid falling into their trap.
If you feel like you are being scammed, please reach out to law enforcement and report it to www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov immediately.