Online Dating Scams: How Scammers are Scoring Millions

People tend romanticize the past, but when it comes to the romantic institution of marriage, the “romantic” part is actually a much more recent phenomenon.

Marriage today is completely different than all throughout history. In the past, it was a means of uniting families together; it’s only recently that we began thinking of marriage as a love match. Pretty much everything you know about marriage is wrong, and there are plenty of pitfalls to creating a lifelong partnership with the person you love that history can’t help you solve…

…not the least of which is finding someone to fall in love with in the first place.

Today’s world of online dating makes it much easier to search for a match, but it also makes it easy for scammers to search for targets.

Opening yourself up emotionally, especially on a public online profile, takes a lot of courage and trust. But you also need to balance that openness with some wariness and healthy skepticism, or you could be taken advantage of.

Criminals find it easy to target people on dating sites, based on the wealth of personal information people include on their profiles. They then create their own attractive fake profiles to reel in their unsuspecting targets by striking up a conversation, quickly professing their love, and making plans to meet. At the last moment, their plans fall through due to tragedy – and only your money can bail them out so you can meet at last.

Online dating fraud has been increasing along with the popularity of online dating, costing the public millions of dollars every year. Some experts estimate that as many as 1 in 10 online profiles aren’t real people, but scammers. The numbers are likely to be even higher in reality, since many people don’t report due to embarrassment.

Need to protect yourself while dating online? Here are common scams to watch out for, so you can find your true love and give away your heart, but not your wallet.

Online Dating Scams – How Fraudsters are Scoring Millions

Scammers using false identities to gain the confidence of their marks is nothing new. But the rise of online dating sites make it easier than ever for people to create fake personas for scams. Following a few simple tips can keep you safe.

The Numbers

Approximately 70% of victims are women
Half of them are over 40
US victims reported a collective loss of $50.4 million in 2011
The actual number is likely higher, as many people don’t report that they’ve been targeted, or underreport out of embarrassment
Canadian victims reported 1,728 cases of romance fraud to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre in 2013
1,149 were identified, and combined, they lost more than $15 million
This is a twentyfold increase since 2008
In Australia, 2,777 victims lost $25 million dollars altogether in 2013
In 2013, 10% of all financial losses to fraud were from romance scams
Romance Fraud Cases

A 39 year-old single mother from Sydney tricked at least four men into giving her more than $2 million

Used sites including LavaLife and Meeting Point
Spent the money on plastic surgery, cars, vacations, and handbags
Bought and sold cars to try and launder some of the money
She claimed she needed the money for, among other things:
Funeral costs for a deceased loved one
Medical bills for a loved one
To pay the bank fees to access money from a family member overseas
In England, a gang of conmen:

Used sites including Adult Friend Finder and to find their victims
Took more than £300,000 ($480,555) from a Belgian man by posing as an English artist
Stole £25,000 ($40,046) from a Florida woman by pretending to be a British neurosurgeon
The gang’s money launderer was jailed for three years for his involvement
A 60 year-old English retiree, lost £60,000 ($96,111) to a man who called himself “Bradford Cole” in just two months

The man:
Claimed that his daughter was struck in a hit-and-run accident while overseas
Told the victim that he needed £9,600 ($15,378) for his daughter’s operations
Manipulated the victim into feeling responsible for his daughter’s welfare
After that, the scammer tricked the victim into giving him £44,500 ($71,282) for:
Business costs
Transportation home
Victim told the man several times that she couldn’t help him
Each time she refused, he explained that he knew how hard this must be for her, but he didn’t have anywhere else to turn
Avoid Getting Scammed

Warning signs:

Claims to be from your home country but is working or traveling overseas
Quickly wants to transition from the dating site to a different form of instant messaging
Profile picture looks like something out of a magazine
Makes plans to visit, but then something tragic suddenly arises
Seems instantly attracted or suddenly proclaims feelings of love
Asks for money for any of these reasons:
A sudden illness
An injury
For a child
Financial setback
Work troubles
Hospital bills
Visa or travel troubles
Victim of a crime
Reduce Your Risk

Although none of these strategies are 100% fool-proof, they can help you avoid becoming at risk.

The only sure way not to be scammed is not to send money
Be skeptical of people you only know through instant messaging or dating websites
Look up someone’s name and background
Don’t send explicit photographs or messages
Some scams take these pictures and messages and extort the sender, threatening to publish them if not given money
Don’t send money to people you don’t know
If someone claims to be a person you do know, double-check their story
Many scammers steal pictures from others:
Ask to video chat with people you’re interested in
Use websites like, Tineye Reverse Image Search, or to check the sender’s picture
Online dating has helped plenty of people find love, but users should keep in mind that some of those profiles are maintained by scammers. By keeping risks in mind and looking out for red flags, users can spot romance fraud before they lose any money and prevent themselves from becoming a statistic.

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