How to Spot an Online Dating Scammer - wikiHow
To help you get a better idea of what a romance scammer looks and grown so has the number of reported romance and online dating scams. Con artists scam victims on online dating websites out of thousands. Here's one woman's story of losing her retirement savings to a scammer. Criminals who perpetrate online dating and romance scams use emotional appeals to quickly gain their victims' trust and then, just as quickly, exploit it.
They often claim to be from Australia or another western country, but travelling or working overseas. They may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come. They may also ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, possibly of an intimate nature. Often the scammer will pretend to need the money for some sort of personal emergency.
For example, they may claim to have a severely ill family member who requires immediate medical attention such as an expensive operation, or they may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck such as a failed business or mugging in the street. The scammer may also claim they want to travel to visit you, but cannot afford it unless you are able to lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses. Sometimes the scammer will send you valuable items such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and ask you to resend them somewhere.
They will invent some reason why they need you to send the goods but this is just a way for them to cover up their criminal activity. Alternatively they may ask you to buy the goods yourself and send them somewhere.
You might even be asked to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it to someone else. Warning - the above scenarios are very likely to be forms of money laundering which is a criminal offence.
Never agree to transfer money for someone else. They will tell you they need your money to cover administrative fees or taxes. Scammers may attempt to lure their victims overseas, putting you in dangerous situations that can have tragic consequences. Regardless of how you are scammed, you could end up losing a lot of money. Online dating and romance scams cheat Australians out of millions every year.
The money you send to scammers is almost always impossible to recover and, in addition, you may feel long-lasting emotional betrayal at the hands of someone you thought loved you.
If you met on a dating site they will try and move you away from the site and communicate via chat or email. Their messages are often poorly written, vague and escalate quickly from introduction to love.
Always consider the possibility that the approach may be a scam, particularly if the warning signs listed above appear. The fact that Dwayne was living in Malaysia added an exotic note to his "eau de enigma. Funny how you sound as if you're right next door, when you're really half a world away.
A former "Yahoo boy" shows how teams of con artists fleece victims from Internet cafes. Born in neighboring Benin, he and his family moved to Nigeria during his childhood and went looking for opportunities in the emerging economic powerhouse of Africa's most populous nation.
Instead, he found "the game" — Nigeria's shadow economy of scams, named for the article in the Nigerian criminal code that deals with fraud. Enitan is not the scammer Amy encountered in ; his fraud career ended inhe says.
Since he left scamming, he's spoken out against the practice. But based on his account, the fraud playbook he followed has not changed. He agreed to talk on the condition that he would not be identified by name. Sent first as printed letters, then as faxes and emails purporting to be from Nigerian officials, these offers are now part of Internet lore.
Indeed, they're so well known that ers have adopted a more effective variation — mining dating sites for targets of romance scams. Impostor scams can flourish wherever the Internet exists Eastern Europe and Russia are also hot spotsbut most dating fraud originates in Nigeria and Ghana, or in countries such as Malaysia and the U. In fast-developing parts of the world with high unemployment, a large percentage of English-speaking young men, and a postcolonial legacy of political instability and corruption, playing the game can be a tempting way out.
That's when he drifted in with the legions of other young Nigerian men known as Yahoo Boys, named for their preference for free Yahoo. He learned the con from an older mentor, and he, in turn, passed on his skills to younger friends.
Enitan describes a three-stage model. Using stolen credit card numbers, the scammer would flood dating sites with fake profiles. Victims can be found anywhere — scammers also forage for connections on social media — but dating services provide the most fertile territory. Profile photos are pirated from social media or other dating sites. To snare women, he'd pose as older men, financially secure and often in the military or in engineering professions. For male victims, he just needed a photo of an alluring younger woman: All his victims, Enitan says, described themselves as divorced or widowed.
After learning everything he can about his target, he would launch a campaign of love notes and gifts. It feels like the universe is manifesting my perfect partner right before my very eyes.
Prayers answered and yes it does seem like we have known each other a long time. They were on the phone for hours every day at this point. His was the first voice she heard in the morning, and the last before bed.
Typically, Amy would talk and text with him until about 11 a. In their emails, they filled pages with minutiae about their lives — her upcoming holiday trip to Sarasota, Florida, with a girlfriend; his visit to a textile museum in Kuala Lumpur. Mixed amid this were Dwayne's increasingly ardent declarations of affection: Last night, in my dreams, I saw you on the pier. The wind was blowing through your hair, and your eyes held the fading sunlight. Florid passages like that did not spring from Dwayne's imagination.
He cribbed them from the Internet. Still, on Amy those words cast a powerful spell. That's how she thinks of it now — it was like a switch flicked in her head. She'd been in love before.
But this was different, a kind of manic euphoria. Will you appear someday. Or are you just a beautiful, exotic dream … if you are … I don't want to wake up! At the core of every romance scam is the relationship itself, a fiction so improbable that most of us initially marvel in disbelief: How do you fall in love — really fall in love — with someone you never meet?
Until the term "catfishing" crept into the vernacular, love affairs with digital impostors were little-known phenomena. The term comes from the documentary film Catfish, about a man with a girlfriend who, we learn, does not exist; it later inspired an MTV series. Pretending to be someone else online is a social media parlor game among some young people. But Amy had never seen the show or heard the term; she had no idea the practice was so common. Computer-mediated relationships, she says, can be "hyperpersonal — more strong and intimate than physical relationships.
Photo by Gregg Segal Research has shown that certain personality types are particularly vulnerable to romance scams. Unsurprisingly, age is a factor: Not only are older victims more likely to lose larger sums of money, there's evidence that our ability to detect deception declines with age. But when she surveyed scam victims in the U. These people tended to describe themselves as romantics and risk takers, believers in fate and destiny.
Many, like Amy, were survivors of abusive relationships. Women were actually slightly less likely to be scammed than men — but were far more likely to report and talk about it. The other term that Amy would later learn is "love bombing. In both situations, the victim's defenses are broken down by exhaustion, social isolation and an overwhelming amount of attention.
Amy would later describe the feeling as akin to being brainwashed. This is the painstaking grooming process that Enitan calls "taking the brain. My life will never be the same since I met you. Love, Dwayne Not long after this, slightly less than a month since his first contact, Dwayne brought up his money troubles. But some components he purchased from Hong Kong were stuck in customs.
He didn't need money, he assured her — he had a hefty trust fund in the U. But he couldn't use his funds to cover the customs fees. And he couldn't come back to Virginia until he finished the job.
So, if there was any way Amy could help him out, he'd pay her back when he returned to the States. Photo illustration by Chris O'Riley When Amy asked for proof of his identity, Dwayne sent copies of his passport and financial documents. Finally, Dwayne set a day for his flight home and emailed his itinerary.
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He'd be there January Amy even bought tickets for their first real date — a Latin dance concert in a nearby city that night. And she told her brothers and her friends that they would finally get to meet this mystery boyfriend. But first, another problem came up: He had to pay his workers.
She had the money. And Dwayne knew it.
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Not exactly how much, perhaps. But he knew she owned her home and two other properties. He knew that her mother and husband had recently died. And he knew she was in love. January 25 came and went. A new problem delayed him; Amy took one of her friends to the concert. Dwayne apologized profusely and sent her more flowers, again with the promise to pay her back. Soon, he needed more money. This part of the con follows a familiar pattern.
The scammer promises a payoff — a face-to-face meeting — that forever recedes as crises and logistical barriers intervene. As February wore on, Amy was still telling friends that Dwayne was coming in a matter of days or weeks. But she never mentioned the money she was lending him.
It's not that she was intentionally misleading anyone.
Dating & romance | Scamwatch
You know me better than that. When doubt started to creep into her mind, she would look at his pictures or read his messages.
Still, almost in spite of herself, she wondered.
Little things seemed odd. Sometimes, out of the blue, he'd fire off a series of rapid-fire instant messages—"oh baby i love you" and so forth.
It felt almost like she was talking to someone else. Another time, she asked what he had for dinner and was surprised to hear his answer—stir-fried chicken. But I thought you hated chicken. To her relief, she got a photo moments later. There he was, sitting on a bench in the sun on the other side of the world.
Psychologists call this "confirmation bias" — if you love someone, you look for reasons they are telling the truth, not reasons they are lying. We tend to find what we are looking for. And Amy was looking, desperately, for reasons to trust Dwayne, because the money was really adding up.
She planned to make dinner for him that first night. She bought all his favorite foods — fresh salmon, sourdough bread, a nice Merlot. The trip would take more than a day: He had to fly to Beijing, then Chicago, and finally connect to Virginia. He'd call her as soon as he got to Chicago. His last message was a brief text that he said he sent from the airport in Kuala Lumpur. I'll be home soon my love.
How to Avoid a Romance Scam When Using Online Dating Sites
Then, when the day finally came, Amy's phone remained silent, despite her efforts to get in touch. Something must have gone wrong. Why hadn't he called or texted her back? She tried to tamp down the pinpricks of panic.
When she collapsed into bed that night, she thought about how this had been the first day in almost three months that they hadn't spoken. There wasn't a single thunderclap of realization. But that week, it all came apart.
Dwayne finally contacted Amy three days later. He sent a single text. Something about being held up by immigration at the airport in Kuala Lumpur and needing money to bribe the officials. This was the third time that Dwayne had failed to show, the third last-minute catastrophe. Still, she wired him the money. Amy's sister-in-law was the first to figure it out. Phil show, in which the TV therapist confronted two women who claimed to be engaged to men they'd met online.
Amy watched in growing horror. This was the same Beijing-bound route Dwayne had planned to be on earlier. As the story of the vanished airliner filled the airwaves, Amy couldn't help but worry that Dwayne had been aboard — maybe he'd managed to take a later flight?
Finally, he called her. But the call went to her home landline, not the mobile phone she'd been using. They spoke for only a few moments before it broke up. She was relieved but also disturbed — and curious. The daily siege of calls and emails and messages had ended.
Suddenly, she wasn't tied up for hours every day. Alone with her thoughts for the first time in months, everything about their relationship seemed to blur. How much do I really know this guy? One by one, she started feeding the photos Dwayne had sent her into Google's image search, trying to trace where else they might have come from. Eventually, up popped the LinkedIn page of a man with a name she'd never heard. Whoever Dwayne was, this wasn't him.
She Googled "romance scam" and started reading.