Don’t fall head over heels for a romance scam
Today, many of us will be snuggling up to our loved ones in celebration of Valentine’s Day.
But for others, they may be sending money to help those they think are their loved ones as part of a romance scam.
What is a romance scam?
Victims are groomed into a relationship with a stranger online. The fraudster will gain the victims’ trust and often steer them away from legitimate dating websites to isolated communications over email, text messages or possibly phone. Over time, they’ll begin to ask for money for reasons like ‘travel to meet the person’ and ‘having an ill relative’. In most cases, the victim won’t have physically met the person.
Many of the scammers are based in Nigeria, home of the infamous 419 email scam – love fraud is a much savvier twist on that old formula. Scammers search chat rooms, dating web sites, and social networks looking for victims.
According to experts, the usual victim type is usually female, over 40 years old, divorced, widowed, elderly, or disabled, but all demographics are at risk, men too. The criminals investigate the target by doing a Google search on their name and searching and researching their online profiles. Once they have enough information about you, they create a character that is specific to you and your dreams. In short, they create your perfect partner and shower you in compliments and attention.
To help persuade the victim and to win their confidence, the fraudster often sends one or more false documents bearing official government stamps, and seals. Fraudsters often mention false addresses and use photographs taken from the Internet or from magazines to falsely represent themselves and appear authentic and attractive.
The usual steps of a love scam fraudster
1. fraudster finds a target online.
2. fraudster communicates initially in a dating website then via email, text and sometimes phone.
3. The fraudster proclaims undying love.
4. Maybe the fraudster sends flowers, teddy bears, wine, chocolates or other tokens of love.
5. After a period of grooming the fraudster suddenly has a dire emergency and urgently needs money.
6. The victim sends money, and keeps sending money until they have no savings left.
We know from recent research that people experiencing loneliness and isolation are four times more likely to fall victim of a scam. By making yourself aware of how criminals operate and what to look out for, you can protect yourself, against the risk of love fraud.