Love. Romance. A soul mate. These are things almost everyone seek at some point in life. While the quest itself is as old as time, the places people search for love have changed significantly in recent years. More and more love seekers are steering the search for their own Romeo (or Juliet) into the digital realm. Talk to your close friends or family, chances are one of them has recently found, or at least tried, a romantic relationship via a virtual rendezvous.
This may sound like a shiny, wondrously new benefit of our increasingly technological world at first glance. And it is certainly not without its benefits for those seeking romance. It gives you access to more potential matches, the ability to filter your potential suitors by preference and of course the ever valuable sneak peak at their appearance before you meet. But before you set up your account and roll the dice with digital cupid, consider who might actually be lurking behind your new sweetheart’s profile picture.
Online dating sites serve as a virtual goldmine for a growing horde of criminals and scammers panning for victims. These criminals seek to identify, contact, groom and exploit individuals’ emotional vulnerability for financial gain. Essentially, they employ a combination of identify fraud and mass marketing fraud. While victims overall are indiscriminately exploited, the most common targets are older females, widows and the recently separated.
To be frank, these crooks masquerading as keyboard Lotharios are not typically innovative criminal masterminds. Their methods are a field-tested routine that is as simple to spot as polar bear in Time Square once you know their game.
Let’s breakdown this boilerplate strategy:
A massive fraud of this nature could only previously have been attempted by a skilled and experienced con man and require numerous face-to-face interactions. However, anonymity is readily available on the Internet and the limitations of physical locations do not exist. In turn most of the keyboard Romeos perpetrating these romance schemes fit a similar profile. This shared similarity makes pinpointing would be fraudsters simple.
Consider the following points to help you sort out crooks attempting fraud from the real catches:
The overly emotional confessions of love utilized in the grooming phase are often plagiarized completely, if not partially, and presented, as ones own thoughts. A simple Google search of text of this nature can help identified stolen content.
This example we identified in an online romance con is clearly found on poemlovers.com: “I live to live, to spend a lifetime with you and to grow older with you, loving you for all times from now to eternity. I love to love you so much and am so happy that soonest we will be together”.”
While there are numerous scammers and fraudsters lurking in wait for their next victim, avoiding them is not difficult once you know their con. Remember these signs and tips during your online search for the new Mr. or Mrs. Right and you can avoid the scheming Internet inamoratos.
If you think you have already been the victim of an online romance scheme we recommend the following actions:
Terminate the relationship and further communication immediately.
Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center IC3.
Information on how to file a claim with the FBI can be found here.
You can also read about additional Internet scams and more tips on how best to avoid becoming a victim.