The Romance Scam
I investigate scams on a regular basis, so I was surprised to find one that I hadn't heard of before. I'm talking about the Romance Scam. This scam shouldn't have surprised me since I know that scammers will use anything to try to steal money from their victims. It doesn't matter what your situation is, they will try to use it to their advantage.
In this scam, the scammer is looking for their victims on dating websites. In a typical dating website scam, the scammer begins talking to his victim on a dating website. (I am referring to the scammer as male and the victim as female, but there are male victims as well.) Very quickly, he requests to begin conversing via email, IM or telephone. After a few days, he professes his love. He may even propose marriage. Love letters and poems (stolen from the Internet) are sent to prove his undying affection. The scammer also steals photos from the Internet. Scammers frequently steal photos from modeling websites, but they also steal them from social networking websites. They look more "real" and are therefore more believable. If you would like to find out if a photo is located anywhere else on the Internet, visit TinEye.com.
It doesn't take the scammer long to begin asking for money. He will make up some type of scenario that puts him in dire straits and he needs his victim to bail him out. Some example scenarios are:
You would think that once the victim has figured out what the scammer is doing, they would just disappear. However, the scammers have added a new twist to the scam. Frequently, once the victim accused the scammer of lying and stealing their money, the scammer will actually ADMIT TO IT! Then, they will "confess" that they have truly fallen in love with the victim during the scam. To prove their devotion, they may visit the victim or have the victim come visit them. If this happens, the first visit will be perfect. The scammer may not talk about money at all. This first visit is to groom the victim and to earn her trust and solidify the relationship. After that, they will draw them deeper into the scam and even use them to scam other people. Sadly, many of the things that a scammer has their victim do are illegal and can get the victim into some serious legal trouble.
Beware of people trying to help you find your scammer. This is just a continuation of the scam. A fake investigator may contact you and ask for money to help you track down the person who tricked you. For an additional fee, they claim, they can bring the person to justice. Unfortunately, it's nearly impossible to find these people, as they do a very good job at hiding themselves behind elaborate fake identities.
If you believe you have fallen for the "romance scam", follow these steps:
Remember that since you have already been scammed, your contact information is now on a list that other scammers can access. You will continue to receive calls, emails and instant messages from people that you do not know. When this happens, tell them that you know they are a scammer and block them. You will know that it's a scammer by the way they write/speak, where they are from, their profile (if contacted through a dating website), they confess their love for you right away, etc. Eventually, they will put you on a no contact list if you keep blocking them. They won't want to waste their time with you if you aren't going to fall for it again!
RomanceScams.org also has a Yahoo! group. You might find it helpful and/or therapeutic to check it out.
Romance Scams are Dangerous
The "romance scam" is a part of a huge business, especially in Nigeria, where most scams originate. Once they have sucked you in, they will not stop or leave you alone until you make them stop. Whatever you do, do not allow a scammer to visit you or try to go visit one. According to their website, RomanceScams.org is currently dealing with one victim who is actually being held against her will in Nigeria. This is dangerous, it's associated with terrorism and it's real. Some of the very real dangers of dealing with scammers are:
Keep yourself safe, keep your sanity and keep your money. Know the facts and protect yourself from the Romance Scam and others like it!