Online Dating SCAMS
In the past, I've written articles that have hopefully opened your eyes, regarding the pitfalls of online dating; Members trying to make their attributes more appealing, by displaying false information in their profiles, usually resulting in wasted time and/or emotional pain. I don't want to harp on that anymore because it just aggravates me.
However, I've recently discovered criminal and actionable behavior on these sites, to add to the horror of online dating. They are scams of an unscrupulous nature, and it turns my stomach, just thinking about it. But, it is my job to make the general public privy to these crimes, so as not to fall victim to them.
Before the computer age, con artists worked alone or in small groups, to rip off unsuspecting people. Today, it is a multi-billion dollar industry, with thousands of scam-artists working for scam companies. The companies provide phony phone lines, addresses, and identities, so that their employees can more easily take your money. These businesses also provide the targets or marks, and strategies for how to rip you off more effectively and efficiently. People on dating sites, are perfect targets because they are vulnerable and fragile.
I went online, to discover firsthand, how most of these scams work... I will use my personal experience, to help you better understand this virtual plague. Please take heed.
The scam starts simply enough. You are attracted to one of their profiles, and initiate contact. They usually infiltrate cost-free and/or international dating sites. They say that they originate from another country, and now live in the U.S., but in a different state than yours. They do this, so that you will not expect to meet them quickly. I found my scammer on a cost free, international dating app, not a website, which made it more difficult to snare her. She said she was from South Africa, and was living in Texas. My profile put me in Nevada. We started communicating through the dating site, which is protocol for scammers and non-scammers alike. If the two of you seem to have a rapport, then you usually move on to personal text messages, which is what we did. Here, is where I saw the next red flag. The text messages got very personal, very quickly. Within one or two days, the scam-artist disclosed that she was deeply in love with me. If it were a genuine feeling, then the next step would be to telephone each other. This is when the next red flag appears: The scammers will come up with every excuse in the book, as to why they cannot talk on the phone. With my scammer, she was either at work, or did not want to make noise, so as not to wake up her young son. Sometimes, they will talk to you once or twice, solely for the purpose of keeping you interested.
Next, they will ask what you desire in a partner, and miraculously, they will fit your criteria to the letter. They will speak openly about of subjects of a sexual nature, and will ask to exchange personal photos. Be careful here. If you want to exchange photos, make sure that your face, all distinguishing marks, and your background cannot be seen. Otherwise, you leave yourself open to extortion. All of this will transpire over a small amount of time. They will ask of your job and income. If you deny them this information, then they will estimate your wealth. They will use their estimate as a watermark for how much time they invest, before snaring you. In my case, I did not disclose my exact net worth, but I alluded that I was 'comfortable'.
Very subtly, they will mention that they plan to travel abroad one or two weeks in the future. During personal conversations, they will mention that the cost of the trip will exhaust most of their funds. But, they'll never harp on the issue. In my case, her step-father had died, so she had to fly to South Africa for the reading of the will.
They will spend most of the conversation telling you how 'understanding' and 'support' are the most important elements of a healthy relationship. They will drill those two words into your head, along with more talk of carnal pleasures.
They will constantly promise to visit you as soon as they return from overseas, which is usually one or two weeks in the future. They don't want to make the trip too long or too short; Just enough to get you to believe that you will be meeting them within a reasonable time frame. Of course, not a conversation passes, without them discussing sexual topics, provided that you don't mind following suit. You write upwards of 500 texts per night, on average. This can go on for days, weeks, or months, depending on how quick you are to trust.
If one night passes, without communication, they tell you that they missed you horribly. You will feel flattered... You will start to believe that you've found someone special... You will start to trust them. They know exactly how you feel, because it is their job to know. In that short time period, they learn enough about you, to know exactly where you stand. They rely on your good nature, to fill their pockets. Keep in mind, that you found each other on a dating site. Before your initial contact, they already know that you are desperate to find a someone who you can trust.
As their 'trip' approaches, they talk more and more about visiting you, as soon as they return. They text when their at the airport. They text when they arrive at their destination. In my case, she texted me every hour, telling me her every move. Then, when they feel the time is right, they drop the bomb on you. They tell you that they need money for something, and that it's a time sensitive issue. In my case, she was willed something that was in a storage room, and the fees were in arrears. She said that the fees totaled $2789, but that she was $689 short.
Without me asking, she sent me an email with the will attached. It had the list of each beneficiary and their inheritance. She had starred the parts that were relative to her. One part indicated that the storage room contained $450,000 in gold. Another part indicated that she was willed $1.9 million, provided that she was engaged or had the intent to engage her current boyfriend. Strangely, the will did not include an allowance to his living wife. Now, most of you are probably thinking that you'd have to be an idiot, to fall for this pile of bull, but like I said... It's a billion dollar business, so evidently there are a lot of idiots out there.
Since I am an business ethics attorney, I have a detective friend who works in the fraud department of a local precinct. I sent him her phone number, and all of our texts.
Then, I asked my scammer a couple of questions that were both sympathetic but a little skeptical. This kind of questions kept it realistic. I could tell that she was confident that the transaction would occur. I asked for the website of the storage company, and told her that I would pay them with my credit card. As I predicted, she said that the company would only accept cash. While I stalled her, the fraud department was tracking her location, by way of her phone number.
She suggested that I wire the money through Western Union. I told her that I had never used them before, and that I needed her guidance. She rattled off the instructions as if she had done it a hundred times, which is probably a good estimate. She gave me the security question and answer. She even told me to include information that was not required for wiring money (sending her a photo copy of the wire receipt, writing my full name on the wire receipt, etc.), so that there would absolutely be no problems.
As soon as the fraud department told me that they found her location, I gave the scammer some lame excuse as to why I could not make the transaction. Her texts became desperate; Her messages were peppered with "Why not" and "Please help me". When I declined again, her texts took on a nasty tone. She started to realize that the time she invested, would yield no return.
This scam is very common. In fact, I would say with confidence, that if a scammer tries to land you, it will be eerily similar to my experience. Just look for the red flags that I mentioned. I hope this article will save at least one person from falling for this scam. If it happens to you, or you suspect that it is happening, report it to the internet police or the fraud department of your local precinct. My detective friend are honing in on the my scammer's bosses as we speak.
Unfortunately, this is the world in which we live. It's a shame, that within the Eden of the computer age, sprout these disgusting weeds. Please be careful.