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11 Jun 2014
Romance scammers trawling dating sites

No one visiting a dating site expects to fall victim of fraud. Yet, it’s one of the places where romance scammers lurk to lure unsuspecting victims looking for a new partner. What are they after? Not your love, but your money.

Sophisticated
These fraudsters are genuine professionals. They’re very sophisticated and will go to great lengths to build a relationship with you, spending a lot of time communicating with you. First, they publish a general profile likely to appeal to potential victims. One that includes a photograph of a very attractive man or woman. The man often turns out to be widower with a child, the woman claims to be an orphan.

Con stories
Once the first contact has been made, the con artists will start pampering you with fake love, sweet-talking their way to your heart and your money.

The victims think they have found their true love, but in fact they are dealing with cold and calculating criminal gangs. Many of them are based in Nigeria, Ghana and Eastern Europe.

Emergency
The real problems start when the victim falls in love and begins preparing for their first date. At this point, the con artist will set the stage for a crisis that only you (and your money) can solve.

More fictional emergencies follow, accompanied by more requests for increasing sums of money from the virtual dating partner. Some of these victims will lose all they own. They even sell their cars for extra cash.

In extreme cases, people have lost hundreds of thousands of euros. Most cases involve total payments of several thousand euros. So far this year 259 people in the Netherlands have fallen victim to dating scams; 49 of them actually sent money. The total damage  has been estimated at over 2.6 million euros.

Attention
These romance scammers pick their victims carefully. Their targets are often lonely people in need of attention.

People at a vulnerable stage in their lives, still mourning the loss of a spouse, for example, or trying to come to terms with a divorce. Both men (40 percent) and women (60 percent) are targeted. Most victims are aged between 40 and 70 and come from all walks of life .

Shame
Afterwards, victims usually ask themselves what made them so blind to fall into this trap. They’re left with a strong feeling of shame and confusion. They don’t understand how this could happened to them.

Their lives are ruined, both financially and emotionally, only because they were hoping for this one and only true love. As many as 60 percent of victims contemplate suicide when the scam is exposed.

Alert
To stay away from these and other scams, it’s key to exercise caution when surfing the internet. Be careful with people you don’t know. Never trust them blindly. Listen to your intuition. Don’t reveal too much about yourself. Never give out your bank account number or other personal details. Don’t send money to people you’ve never met.

If you’re asked to use a wire transfer service like Western Union and MoneyGram, the chances are that you’re dealing with scammers. In short: keep your eyes out for the warning signs that indicate that your would-be partner is not what he appears to be.


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