You may think you’ve met the woman of your dreams. She may appear to be kind and considerate online, lavishing you with compliments and praise. Online profile photos show a person who’s young and attractive.
However, something just doesn’t seem right – there is almost always a request to move your “relationship” away from the online dating site to a different platform – usually email. And then comes the inevitable – a request for money, sometimes even to pay for the airline ticket to visit you.
That, in short, is the anatomy of today’s online dating scam. If you refuse to send money, the requests will only become more insistent, usually accompanied by stories of a dire nature – sudden bankruptcies, unexplained muggings in a foreign country, or urgent medical situations. And if you do agree to wire money or give this person access to your credit cards or banking account, you will find that the requests have a way of continuing beyond just the initial ask.
There’s a reason for this, course. Romance scams are BIG business. Run just like any “for profit” organization, there is a hierarchy and an organizational structure involving entry-level workers, managers and big bosses. In some third-world countries, Internet cafes become the de facto office of these organizations. Because of the easy money made from victims – sometimes thousands or tens of thousands of dollars at the same time, scammers are often well-to-do respected business men or women who quit their regular day jobs for more lucrative careers.
Scammers work in shifts. They have a script to follow, just like telemarketers. This is why they all sound the same. This is why the words are so similar. They are taught what to say and when to say it. They normally work in groups of six people. This is why they are always on the computer and at times it seems you are talking to different people. There may be times when they have forgotten what you talked about before or call you a different name.
What is most disheartening in all this, of course, is that the scammers have specific profiles of people that they have identified as being the most vulnerable – and therefore, the most susceptible to a scam. Widowers and women recovering from a divorce are favorite targets, as are men or women who are perceived as being desperate for a future relationship to work.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that everyone you meet online is a potential scammer. But, as hard as the top online dating sites try to vet the people who sign up, there are always scammers who manage to outsmart the system. The best advice for anyone looking for love online is to always be a bit skeptical. If someone sounds too good to be true, there may be a good reason for that.