This article is one in a series that discusses protecting yourself from scams when dating online.
There are many online dating scams out there but I would consider this the “main” scam. This scam involves the scammer posing as a potential love interest with the goal of making money off of their target. It’s amazing how many people are fooled by this one but the bad guys are good at what they do and can be very convincing.
The Romance Scam In Practice
- You’re contacted by someone who appears genuinely interested in you. If you’re a man, she’s probably very beautiful. If you’re a woman, he may seem either very successful or extremely caring. Other times, though, there may be nothing remarkable about them.
- Time will be spent growing the relationship but there will always be something that prevents meeting. Most often this will be due to their being in another country (this fact often plays into the scam further).
- As the relationship grows, the scammer will introduce some type of problem they are dealing with. For example, a relative may become ill or some issue will arise with their arrangement for staying in the country. In the beginning this will likely be treated as nothing more than a frustration. The whole point is to prepare you as they move into the further stages of this scam.
- Once the scammer feels that you are both convinced of their honesty and emotionally attached to them, they will move into the next phase of the scam. Some type of problem will occur that will desperately require your help. The frustrating issue has now become an emergency: the sick family member is now dying and they are in desperate need of money or they must leave the country at the risk death but haven’t the money to leave. The initial request for money may be quite small and may seem very reasonable. They will persist in their request for money if you hesitate…and they can be very convincing.
- You will only reach this point if you’re given money in the step above. At this point, the emergency has become even worse. For example, the money you gave to help with the operation was successful but now if they aren’t able to buy medication to help with the recovery all will be lost. Whatever the emergency was, it will have only become worse. At this point, more money will be requested in a larger amount. This step will be repeated until you run out of money or realize you’ve been taken.
Tips For Spotting The Romance Scam
Did they ask for money?
This should never happen in online dating. No matter how well you think you know someone if money ever, ever, ever comes into the conversation you need to exercise extreme caution. Stop and think: if you were in need of help, where would you turn first? Online dating? Not likely. The number one rule here is easy to remember: at any point in time if someone asks for money there’s a good chance you’re talking to a scammer.
Are they in another country?
They’ll normally be up-front about this because it’s all part of their plan. Being contacted by someone from outside the country is strange. All foreign contact may not be a scam related but I suspect most of it is.
Do they make sense?
Many of these scammers are flooding the same email to many people. They want to build a large base of people to talk with as every person represents another source of potential income. Because they could be sending hundreds of messages, their emails may seem generic or they may not be able to stay on topic with your discussions. They may also struggle with the English language.
Guys: does she look like a model?
Chances are the photo you are looking at is a model. Chances are the person who sent it to you is not her. The money scam relies on getting someone to want to believe that the person that they are talking to is the real deal. With this in mind, the scammer will find a pretty girl somewhere on the internet and will then use this in their profile.
Ladies: did he fall in love with you amazingly quickly?
The scammers may play to men’s eyes but they’ll play to a woman’s heart. Most men are unwilling to throw words like “love” and “forever” around quickly. Most men prefer to meet before making a commitment (and even then we often struggle!). I’m not encouraging pessimism if you’ve found a man who’s crazy about you before you’ve even met but I am advising you that if this perfect man suddenly needs a little money chances are he’s anything but perfect.
Did a small problem turn into a catastrophe?
If so, looking back, were you “prepped” for this emergency? Was the topic frequently touched on?
Time is of no consequence
Many of these scammers are outside of the country and doing this is their job; it’s what they do for a living. They’re more than happy to put in the time. Do not assume that because you’ve built a strong relationship over a month or two that they are who they say they are.
Learn More About Online Dating Scams and How to Better Protect Yourself
- One recent example is a woman losing $70,000 to this online dating scam.
- Online Dating Scams: Additional Scams is a discussion of other less popular (but still very real) scams.
- Tools For Identifying Online Dating Scams and Liars offers steps you can take to try and verify that the person you are talking to really is who they say they are.
- Advance-fee fraud is discussed in great detail at Wikipedia. This article covers both the Romance Scan and 419 Scam as well as many others.