Spring is in the air and many people’s thoughts are turning to romance. Internet dating is fast becoming the most popular way of meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, and whilst the vast majority of websites are careful to eliminate scammers, some fraudsters do make it past the checks. It’s really important to be aware of how potential scammers operate and the tactics they might employ so that you stay safe online.
Here are some of the most notorious scams currently operating in the online dating world:
1. The Ghana/Nigeria Emergency Scam:
Nigeria and Ghana have become almost synonymous with online scamming so these guys often pretend to be from the USA, Canada the UK or another Western country. They set up their online profile using a false identity and photograph. Depending upon the nature of the scam, Miss Right may actually be a Mister, and vice versa!
The scammer then picks his/her victim and begins to form an online relationship with them. This goes on for weeks or sometimes even months before the scam begins. Suddenly, your online date has an emergency. The “emergencies” take various forms; a businessman has an accident whilst working abroad, a helpless woman is stranded in a strange country or a family member suffers a brain haemorrhage. All have one thing in common; they take place in Nigeria or Ghana. And of course, all require money to alleviate the situation.
Needless to say, if you fall for it and send them the cash, Mr or Miss Right will disappear into thin air along with your money.
2. Plane Ticket Scam:
This is a very popular scam which originated in Russia and the Philippines and the scammers are usually women (or at least they purport to be). The scammer will spend time forging a bond with the victim. She will tell you how desperately she wants to come and meet you but simply cannot afford the plane ticket or visa. If only you would help her with a little money towards the air fare, she’ll be on the very next plane. Except she won’t and you can kiss goodbye to your cash.
Don’t be fooled by scanned copies of air tickets either. This is a ploy to convince you that the scammer is really genuine. They won’t ask you for any money at the outset but there will suddenly be a last minute problem and they will beg that you send them a large sum of money without which the trip will have to be cancelled. These scammers are well-versed in immigration rules and you might even find that their reasons do check out, but the end result will be the same; they disappear with your money.
3. Medical Emergency Scam:
This is another common internet dating scam. The scam follows the usual pattern of relationship building via email, and then just when you think things are going well, your online date will suffer some sort of horrendous medical emergency. It could be that they allegedly need some sort of operation or that their child has a brain tumour. Sometimes, an accomplice makes a phone call to the victim telling them that Mr Right has had an accident and requires urgent medical treatment. Whatever the scenario, you will be told that the treatment cannot begin because the scammer cannot afford to pay for it and a request for your financial help follows.
Don’t get caught out – the person you’ve been corresponding with is in reality an African scammer and not living in the West as you were led to believe.
4. The Nigerian 419 Scams:
This is one of a number of original email scams which have recently found their way into the online dating scene. It’s is also known as “advance fee fraud”. The scenarios vary but the gist is that someone has come by a fortune in gold, gemstones or cash and needs help in getting the money out of the country. The victim is promised a substantial reward for their “assistance”. As with all these scams, a last minute problem arises and you will be asked to send a large sum of money to make sure all goes smoothly. Needless to say, there is no fortune and the scammer will vanish with your cash.
Fortunately, these emails are usually very easy to spot as the English used is clearly not the first language of the writer, the text will be full of typing errors and spelling mistakes, and the layout smacks of a cut-and-paste exercise.
5. Money Order Cash Requests:
As usual, the scammer’s preparatory groundwork follows the standard pattern. Once a bond has been formed between the scammer and his victim, he will ask them to cash some money orders for him and wire the money to him. The excuse will be that he is working in Nigeria or Ghana and is unable to cash the money orders there.
On the face of it this seems innocent enough and many people fall for it. The money orders however have been doctored. A $20 money order may have been “washed” to show a sum of $2,000. The victim cashes the money order and wires the cash to the scammer; the bank detects the forgery and the victim is then held liable for the full amount. The scammer vanishes, $2,000 better off.
6. Disaster Relief Scam:
Whenever there is a disaster like an earthquake, hurricane or tsunami, donations flood in the help the victims. Unfortunately, scammers also take advantage of disaster situations by pretending to be a victim themselves.
Your charming internet date may pretend to be a flood victim who has lost everything; they have nothing left and the government is doing nothing to help them. They may tell you that they’re starving; their house and all their possessions have gone; please could you send them some money just to buy clean water and some food?
Heart-rending though the tale may be, don’t you think it’s odd that they’ve still got internet access and are using a dating website?!
The vast majority of internet daters are genuine, honest folk, who really are looking for love. Unfortunately, there are some out there who would seek to take financial advantage of trusting romantics, so always proceed with caution and don’t become a victim of fraud.