Over the recent years romance scams have got more prevalent on the internet. The scam differs from the 419 Nigerian Scams that are known in society as the “get rich scam”. This type of scam is more personal because there are no financial gains for the victim as in the 419 scams. Although dating sites are easily assessable by allowing singles to meet in a geographic area, online daters are at risk of becoming victims of romance scams because individuals are unaware of these scams, the inability to spot the red flags in dating profiles and also their lack of online safety practices.
The romance scammers originate from Nigeria are a well organized group of males reading from successful tested scripts who work in cafes or warehouses. Anna Alden- Tirrill confirms the romance scam organization is running a 20 billion a year business and also they have been associated with terrorist cells.
Dating sites is offering a service to individuals where they can be matched with others around the world or locally. Most dating sites claim they have complete annuity in regards to offering profile options as not in disclosing your real name, email address, your location, also by offering a delete/ignore button. The sites are inexpensive to participate and they advertise healthy, attractive individual success stories. A few dating site over the past couple years has added a clause about online scammers and claim no responsibility regarding profiles posted. Dating sites is disinterested in removing a scammer profile or offering the member assistance when a scam occurs. The bottom line is profit.
Unsuspecting individuals who are contacted over the internet through dating sites by these scammers are from all walks of life. Profiles on dating sites can be attractive, informative, interesting and the biggest misconception individuals have are what you see in the profile are true facts. Scammer profiles can be difficult to spot unless you know what red flags to look for. Users have an ideal person they are looking for whether it’s an attractive individual, common interest, common geographic location, friends and hobbies.
The Common Scammer Red Flags
- Profile picture looks professionally done
- Height/weight is not proportional -e.g. 6’ and 95 lbs
- Claim to be Native American or some other ethnicity when the photo is Caucasian
- Claim to be older/younger than the photo looks
- Grammar is not consistent with how Americans speak, French speak etc.
- Profile seems cut and pasted
- Spelling is atrocious, they are notorious for using “i” instead of “I”
- Their full name is two first names – John Michele, Florence Francis, Shawn David
- They typically claim to be from the US (or your local region) but they are overseas, or going overseas mainly to Nigeria, sometimes the UK for business or family matters
- A majority of them claim to have lost a spouse/child/parent in a horrific traffic accident or airplane accident or any of the above are sick or in the hospital
- The details they give you in email/IM are often different that what was stated in the profile
- Their profile seems to disappear off the website immediately after conversation begin
Scammers can be clever with their words, usually the text of the message is cut and pasted or they can be sloppy in their text as the email below shows. The email is an example of “scammer grammar” the misspelled words, and the short abbreviations of words.
Example Scammer First Contact Email
I would really love to know as much as i can about you.
Well i think i have to tell you more about myself.I’m
mixed,dad from Belgium while mum from USA.I was born
and grew up in Belgium before i move to the states.I’m
an civil engineerwell am in Nigeria now working on a
contract but i will going back to the statessoon.
I dont have children, though i was married but i lost
my wife on a car accidnt I also attach couple of my
photos on this email i hope you like them.I would also
want you to send me some photos I really like your
profile and it was nice.I have never done this before also.
Have a nice and great day. Hope to hear from you soon
Scammers will pose under the disguise of beautiful pictures as either male or female claiming to be from the United States. The scammer weaves a story of a successful business person working over seas, having no family; they present themselves as a thoughtful, caring and loving individual who is looking for their soul mate. The scammers are good at what they do; they ask lots of questions of the victim regarding what they want in their lives. The scammer then takes the information and turns it into a dream that becomes a reality to the victim. Once they have established a relationship then the scamming begins. In all cases the plea for finical assistance is the key to the scam. This can be for assistance in cashing a check that they are unable to cash themselves and also asking for financial assistance to help them out of a difficulty they are having.
The victim then feels a need to help the one they love either they send money or deposit checks in their bank accounts. The scam continues until the bank discovers the checks as frauds or the victim realizes they have been deceived. The scammer will then attempt to sweet talk the victim, turn it around on the victim saying “how can you not trust me” or threaten the victims’ life. Romance scams touch many online users in tragic ways such as victims being arrested and prosecuted; but also many have lost their jobs, homes, vehicles, and life savings.
Online users think this will not happen to them and their conceptions are that they are not stupid enough to fall for it. They believe only the over weight, low self esteem, and uneducated fall for these types of scams. Most individuals do not understand the physiological aspect of these scams, how the scammers are educated and trained to do them. Barb Sluppick owner of the Romance Scams Organization and leading expert in the Nigerian romance scams, points out the Romance Scams Organization has assisted close to 27,000 on line users in little over two years, the scams have affected thousands of people and they have helped individuals
from all walks of life in recovering from being scammed.
What can also be easily taught and needs to be taught to online users are the safety steps to take when on the internet. With the increase in dating sites, social sites and blog sites the internet user opens their self up to be targeted not only by a scammer but also risk identity theft. Individuals are less cautious on the internet because they feel safe in their own homes. Users will in a matter of short conversations give their name, location, birth date, what they do for a living, their children names, what car they drive, will post their pictures; use their full name in emails, blog about their needs and desires whether they intend to be public about it or not and never realize they gave detailed facts about their lives.
These unsafe practices do not occur in the public work place, shopping mall or bar, because individuals are more cautious in face to face contacts. With continual personal information given freely which leads to the risk of being targeted for Identity theft? Annie McGuire from Fraudaid an organization that works with fraud victims acknowledges that a scammer will take the information given to them and will do the following in the victims name; open a credit card, access banking accounts, open an online business, and wreak havoc on the victim’s life.
Romance scammers continual pursuit of online users will remain as long as individuals have the illusion of safety and security online. The only way for online users to be safe is to accept the dangers that are among us and proceed with caution.