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Romance Scams
A Warning When Looking For Love

If you are looking for love online, it is important that you are careful. Many people are becoming the victims in what are termed as "Romance Scams" & "Dating Scams." The article below outlines some of those scams as well as tips on what to do and what not to do if someone is attempting to scam you.

Also see our article on online dating tips.

Lisa Lawless
By Lisa S. Lawless, Ph.D.
Psychotherapist & Sexuality Expert

CEO & Founder of
Holistic Wisdom, Inc. & NAASAS

Copyright: Holistic Wisdom- Do NOT Copy Warning

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What are Romance Scams or Dating Scams?

During a romance or dating scam, most often people are duped into believing that they are speaking with a person who is actually a 'creation' of a scam artist. The scam artist eventually woos the unknowing victim to gain access to their money or bank account or by getting them to unknowingly commit fraud on their behalf.

Most of these dating & romance scams seem to originate from, and are prevalent in West Africa (especially Nigeria), Russia, Eastern Europe, Thailand and the Philippines. Remember that when someone claims to be contacting you from a location, it does not mean they are actually there. Also, some make up elaborate stories claming to be helping people in poor areas of the world to make themselves appear to be more of a humanitarian.

The scam artist relies on several tools-

Appealing Photos For The Perfect Romance Scam (A.K.A. - Catfish)
These photos are usually of models or taken from sites and are often not the person that you are communicating with during online interactions.
Dream Profiles For The An Alluring Dating Scam
The scam artist knows what most people are looking for and they will create the seemingly perfect person. Emotionally open, caring and often seeking a monogamous relationship and marriage for women and sex for men.
Flattering Correspondence To Suck You Into A Romance Scam
Often kept on file, emails and letters are often copied from one victim to another while offering flattering messages full of 'unconditional love'. Using song lyrics and poetry, the scam artists create the illusion of a romantic, long distance lover.
Love & Lust For Irresistible Dating Scams
Often scammers will target men with lusty pictures and dialog (meanwhile many of the scammers are men themselves) and will target women with profiles of a widower who is looking for love once again.
Marriage Proposals For The Final Grooming Of A Romance Scam
Often women are the scam of these, however it does occur to men, especially in mail order bride cons. The scam artist knows that once you have accepted a marriage proposal you will be more ready to part with your money to help them out in some way.

No Dating Site is Immune from Romance Scams

It does not matter if the dating site is an 'exclusive' one that tries to keep out 'undesirables' by charging a high fees because the scammers will pay for membership using a stolen credit card.

An example of a common romance scam-

A romance scammer may send a victim a forged or stolen check worth $4,800 and ask the victim to retain $800 for themselves and to forward the remaining $4,000 to them via Western Union or a Moneygram. (Scammers like money wiring services because it is impossible to trace the recipients of the money).

The romance scammer reassures the victim by telling them to keep a share of the money for themselves. This not only reinforces the feelings of love and trust within the victim but also serves to incriminate the victim thereby reducing any chance of reporting to the authorities because in the eyes of the law the victim becomes an accomplice by keeping a portion of the stolen money.

Who is at Risk from Romance Scams?

We are all targets. The counties where the romance scam artists focus their efforts tends to be on the U.S. and U.K., however no one is immune. Anyone looking for love on the Internet is at risk because scammers are known to target every sort of dating site including niche sites like religious, gay, professional, etc.

Common Romance Scams

They Are In An Accident & Need Your Assistance
They have someone call to say that they have been in an accident or are ill and unconscious. You are listed as their next of kin and you need to pay for their urgent medical treatment. Without this medical attention you are told they will die.

They Were Robbed Or Need To Borrow Money For Tax Reasons
The scammer may be bold enough to simply ask for they money directly and indicate that they were robbed and need a small loan to get them through this tough time. They may also indicate that they need a loan to avoid foreign taxes as they travel through certain countries. Also, remember that money laundering is a criminal offense: never agree to transfer money for someone else.
Unpaid Hotel Bill
The scammer may claim that they are trying to see you but do not have enough money to pay their hotel bill and the hotel is holding their passport until they pay it.
They Want You To Ship Merchandise To Them
Scammers will make up an excuse why they need you to ship merchandise to them. The reality is that they have purchased the merchandise with a stolen credit card and you are shipping stolen goods or possibly partaking in money laundering.
Mail Order Bride
A very attractive woman wants to meet to see if the male victim is physically compatible with them. The promise of sex it exciting enough that the victim does not have any problem shelling out the money for her passport or other travel expenses.

Background Checks

You can do a background check, but remember some of the romance scams use real people as decoys. Meaning they go to a dating site, steal someone's name and profile and use their information.

If someone you have never met in person is proclaiming their love for you and asking you to send them gifts or money you should ask yourself: could this person be a scammer? Use common sense and never give money to someone you do not know.


What to Do if You Have Been Scammed

What Not To Do-

Do not delete or throw away the scammer's letters, pictures or records of your money transfers. You may need these for evidence later.

Do not provide the scammers with links to black lists where their pictures may already be posted. This will only help them to change their information and make them more difficult to catch.
Do not send the scammers any more money no matter what they say.

What To Do-

Call the bank, Western Union (1-800-325-6000), MoneyGram (1-800-666-3947) or however you sent money and find a way to speak to a representative. Provide the representative with all the information you can. Make sure to explain that you were not aware that the receiver was a scam artist and ask the representative to provide you information on the city name and the bank address where the transfer was picked up by the receiver. Ask the representative what kind of steps you can take to place a warning on the receiver’s name, so the next time someone tries to send money to this person they would be warned.

Contact your Embassy in the scammer’s country (ex., if the scammer if from Russia, contact your Embassy in Moscow) and ask them if a visa was issued for a lady by such name. Confirm that there was no visa issued.
If you have her flight itinerary, contact the air carrier listed in the itinerary and confirm that a passenger by that name did not booked a ticket, or that a ticket was purchased but later canceled. Request this information in writing.
Post information about the scammer on as many black lists and anti-scam forums as you can.
If you have her flight itinerary, contact the air carrier listed in the itinerary and confirm that a passenger by that name did not booked a ticket, or that a ticket was purchased but later canceled. Request this information in writing.
Report the incident to any of the appropriate authorities . Your bank or credit card company. The Federal Trade Commission. Report the circumstances to the FTC: National Resource for Identity Theft
Find someone to talk to about what happened. Don't keep your experience a secret just because you want to avoid being embarrassed. It always helps to find someone whom you trust to confide in.
Find support from people who have been through the same experience, join them and participate in their activities and help others.


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