Online Dating: How Romance Scams Dupe Millions
People tend romanticize the past, but when it comes to the romantic institution of marriage, the “romantic” part is actually a much more recent phenomenon.
Marriage today is completely different than all throughout history. In the past, it was a means of uniting families together; it’s only recently that we began thinking of marriage as a love match. Pretty much everything you know about marriage is wrong, and there are plenty of pitfalls to creating a lifelong partnership with the person you love that history can’t help you solve…
…not the least of which is finding someone to fall in love with in the first place.
Today’s world of online dating makes it much easier to search for a match, but it also makes it easy for scammers to search for targets.
Opening yourself up emotionally, especially on a public online profile, takes a lot of courage and trust. But you also need to balance that openness with some wariness and healthy skepticism, or you could be taken advantage of.
Criminals find it easy to target people on dating sites, based on the wealth of personal information people include on their profiles. They then create their own attractive fake profiles to reel in their unsuspecting targets by striking up a conversation, quickly professing their love, and making plans to meet. At the last moment, their plans fall through due to tragedy – and only your money can bail them out so you can meet at last.
Online dating fraud has been increasing along with the popularity of online dating, costing the public millions of dollars every year. Some experts estimate that as many as 1 in 10 online profiles aren’t real people, but scammers. The numbers are likely to be even higher in reality, since many people don’t report due to embarrassment.
Need to protect yourself while dating online? Here are common scams to watch out for, so you can find your true love and give away your heart, but not your wallet.
Online Dating Scams – How Fraudsters are Scoring Millions
Scammers using false identities to gain the confidence of their marks is nothing new. But the rise of online dating sites make it easier than ever for people to create fake personas for scams. Following a few simple tips can keep you safe.
- Approximately 70% of victims are women
- Half of them are over 40
- US victims reported a collective loss of $50.4 million in 2011
- The actual number is likely higher, as many people don’t report that they’ve been targeted, or underreport out of embarrassment
- Canadian victims reported 1,728 cases of romance fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in 2013
- 1,149 were identified, and combined, they lost more than $15 million
- This is a twentyfold increase since 2008
- In Australia, 2,777 victims lost $25 million dollars altogether in 2013
- In 2013, 10% of all financial losses to fraud were from romance scams
Romance Fraud Cases
A 39 year-old single mother from Sydney tricked at least four men into giving her more than $2 million
- Used sites including LavaLife and Meeting Point
- Spent the money on plastic surgery, cars, vacations, and handbags
- Bought and sold cars to try and launder some of the money
- She claimed she needed the money for, among other things:
- Funeral costs for a deceased loved one
- Medical bills for a loved one
- To pay the bank fees to access money from a family member overseas
In England, a gang of conmen:
- Used sites including Adult Friend Finder and Match.com to find their victims
- Took more than £300,000 ($480,555) from a Belgian man by posing as an English artist
- Stole £25,000 ($40,046) from a Florida woman by pretending to be a British neurosurgeon
- The gang’s money launderer was jailed for three years for his involvement
A 60 year-old English retiree, lost £60,000 ($96,111) to a man who called himself “Bradford Cole” in just two months
- The man:
- Claimed that his daughter was struck in a hit-and-run accident while overseas
- Told the victim that he needed £9,600 ($15,378) for his daughter’s operations
- Manipulated the victim into feeling responsible for his daughter’s welfare
- After that, the scammer tricked the victim into giving him £44,500 ($71,282) for:
- Business costs
- Transportation home
- Victim told the man several times that she couldn’t help him
- Each time she refused, he explained that he knew how hard this must be for her, but he didn’t have anywhere else to turn
Avoid Getting Scammed
- Claims to be from your home country but is working or traveling overseas
- Quickly wants to transition from the dating site to a different form of instant messaging
- Profile picture looks like something out of a magazine
- Makes plans to visit, but then something tragic suddenly arises
- Seems instantly attracted or suddenly proclaims feelings of love
- Asks for money for any of these reasons:
- A sudden illness
- An injury
- For a child
- Financial setback
- Work troubles
- Hospital bills
- Visa or travel troubles
- Victim of a crime
Reduce Your Risk
Although none of these strategies are 100% fool-proof, they can help you avoid becoming at risk.
- The only sure way not to be scammed is not to send money
- Be skeptical of people you only know through instant messaging or dating websites
- Look up someone’s name and background
- Don’t send explicit photographs or messages
- Some scams take these pictures and messages and extort the sender, threatening to publish them if not given money
- Don’t send money to people you don’t know
- If someone claims to be a person you do know, double-check their story
- Many scammers steal pictures from others:
- Ask to video chat with people you’re interested in
- Use websites like RomanceScam.com, Tineye Reverse Image Search, or ScamDigger.com to check the sender’s picture
Online dating has helped plenty of people find love, but users should keep in mind that some of those profiles are maintained by scammers. By keeping risks in mind and looking out for red flags, users can spot romance fraud before they lose any money and prevent themselves from becoming a statistic.
- The Spanish Prisoner Scam: Alive and Well on the Internet – fhando.com
- I Was a Victim of an Online Dating Scam – money.cnn.com
- Looking for Love? Beware of Online Dating Scams – fbi.gov
- Romance Fraud Scams Continue to Rise – manitoulin.ca
- Older Women Most Likely to Click with Online Romance Scam Artists – usnews.nbcnews.com
- Online Romance Turns Sour as Victoria Victim Loses $88,000 in Scam – theglobeandmail.com
- Scams cost Australians $89 million in 2013, says Australian Competition and Consumer Commission – abc.net.au
- ‘Romance Fraud’: Woman Accused of Swindling Millions from Men Through Online Dating Sites – smh.com.au
- Fraud Gang Posed as Lovestruck Lonely Hearts to Con Hundreds of Thousands of Pounds out of Hapless Victims on Dating Websites – dailymail.co.uk
- Romance Scam Victim Tells Her Story to Prevent Further Crimes – actionfraud.police.uk
- Welcome to Romance Scam! – romancescam.com
- Profiles of Scammers and Fakes – scamdigger.com
- The Official Romance Scams Website – romancescams.org
- Dating & Romance – scamwatch.gov.au
- Online Dating Leads To Higher Marriage Satisfaction, Lower Divorce Rates: Study – huffingtonpost.com
Download this infographic.