Internet Dating and Romance Scams
U.S. citizens should be aware of individuals they meet on internetDATING WEBSITES
In many scam scenarios, the correspondent suddenly falls into dire circumstances overseas (i.e. an arrest or a horrible car accident) about two to three months after a connection is made. The correspondent will ask you to send money for hospital bills,VISA
Scammers Target the Vulnerable
As cruel as it sounds, scammers oftenTARGET
The anonymity ofTHE INTERNET
These scammers have created male as well as female characters and entice same sex correspondents as well as those of the opposite sex. Correspondents who quickly move to expressions of romantic interest or discussions of intimate matters may in fact be scammers. A request for funds almost always marks a fraudulent correspondent. U.S. citizens are cautioned against sending any money to persons they have not actually met face-to-face.
Romance scams involve one or more – sometimes all – of the key signs below:
- You met online through a dating website, an e-mailCHAT ROOM
, Facebook, or another online website.
- The scammer claims to be a native-born U.S. citizen, but has a thick accent and/or uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker.
- Scammers have the worst luck imaginable — often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized — usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
- The scammer’s “bad luck” occurred when they were on their way to the airport to come to the United States to meet you. Scammers like to build the anticipation of their victims. Once you are excited about the chance to finally meet them in person, that’s when something occurs to prevent them from making the trip. They count on your excitement to finally meet them as an extra incentive toSEND MONEY
. As soon as you send money, however, another situation occurs, which requires you to send more money.
- The scammer asks you for money to get out of a bad situation. Note: Since scammers prey on the good intentions of U.S. citizens, some of them will not actually ask you for money. Rather, they will share their heart-breaking situation with you in hopes that you will willinglySEND MONEY
to help them.
- The scammer claims that the U.S. Embassy would not help them. Likely they have never tried toGET HELP
from the embassy, because they are not actually U.S. citizens.
- The passport the scammer sent to convince you that (s)he is a U.S. citizen looks computerized and includes a very attractive photo that looks like it was taken by a professional modeling agency or at a photograph studio. This is not a typical passport photo.
Tips to protect yourself from scammers:
- Never send money to someone you have not met in person without verifying their identity.
- Do not disclose personal details over the phone or online — even inYOUR
profile on social networking sites. For example, if you are a widow, you may not want to make this known on a dating web site — scammers thrive on information like this.
- Refer all individuals who claim to be in distress overseas to the local U.S. embassy or consulate. Assisting U.S. citizens overseas is the U.S. Department of State’s top priority. All U.S. citizens will be assisted, and no one is turned away. Consular officers areAVAILABLE
24/7 for emergencies. You can find contact information for all U.S. embassies and consulates at http://www.usembassy.gov/.
- Contact the State Department’s Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747. We can offer suggestions for verifying whether the situation is legitimate or a scam.
- If you insist on sending money, consider sending an OCS Trust instead of direct Western Union or MoneyGram. OCS Trusts are routed from Western Union through the U.S. Department of State; the funds are thenDEPOSITED
directly with the nearest U.S. embassy and consulate overseas for pick up by your loved one. Please call the Office of Overseas Citizens Services at 1-888-407-4747 to verify the person’s citizenship BEFORE sendingMONEY . If the individual is not really a U.S. citizen, we cannot process the request and it may take up to one year for funds to be returned to you (minus the $30PROCESSING fee).
If you feel you have been a victim of an Internet scam, please send allREPORTS