Dating scams have become quite normal in the online world today. With the increasing number of people now turning to chat, dating, and social networking sites to meet new people and find romance, scammers and crooks from all part of the world are licking their chops at all the obtainable opportunities they now have. Although it seems no networking site is totally immune, many of them are now taking the issue with all seriousness and are implementing more elaborate security measures. However, these scammers are becoming more sophisticated also, finding and exploiting any loophole available. The only way to curb this problem is to bombard the online world with information and warnings. When we succeed in getting rid of naive victims, then perhaps we can finally rid the internet of these scammers.
Addressing the issue
Although there is a lot of talk of late about Nigeria and the Ivory Coast, the reality is that these scammers are located in different part of the world. Hence, addressing this issue is not always as simple as mere blocking of visitors (IPs) from just one or two countries, since many of these scammers are accessing the internet via satellite servers, using the IPs of other neighboring countries. Most of the best dating sites are now prohibiting mass emails, and taking precautions to further monitoring emails for scam appropriate language such as email address spelled out (e.g. markfrankatgmaildotcom). The good sites can block tricks like this one, and are doing so each day with more and more refinement. However, even the best dating and social networking sites cannot detect everything. This is the major reason why online users have to be well educated and informed.
How it happens
For most scammers, they will simply log into a website (dating or social networking site) and send a general message to members that fit their particular standard. For instance, if the scammer is impersonating an attractive female, he or she will likely attempt to contact single male members with a very flattering message (usually containing one specific thing while the rest will be a copy and paste material). The scammer will then go ahead to invite the member to email him or her (the scammer) at a personal address. The scammer then leaves the site and move over to another without ever returning to the earlier one. In this way, they are not disturbed if their membership is deleted, since they now hope to get their messages at their outside email address initially provided. Now, should a member respond to the scammer’s message, the scammer will then proceed with his or her scheme. Most times, the goal of this scheme is to either have you send them money or to provide them with sensitive information (like your account details). They will come up with incredible and unique stories to try to appeal to your sympathetic and romantic side.
Many of these scammers share common characteristics. Comprehending and recognizing these characteristics can go a long way in identifying most of these scammers from the start.
Photos are an integral part of a scammer’s toolkit. They use photos to back up their storylines and make their personalities seem much real. They never use photos of themselves, and they look nothing like the person in the photos they use.
These female scammers use photos of someone very young and highly attractive. They choose a source (mostly modeling sites and porn sites) where they can copy multiple photos and sometimes videos of the same person, including sexy ones. They will rarely re-use photos provided by scam victims.
You can identify a model photo by any of the following signs.
- The photos look professional
- There are watermarks on the photos
- The person looks like a model
- The pictures are in a similar setting that looks like a professional photo shoot
- The photos are sexy (e.g. lingerie, swimsuit, unbuttoned top etc.)
If the photos do not look like model photos, consider the following signs.
- The photo does not match the person’s written description (age, eye color, nationality etc.)
- The photos are not clear and not of a reasonable size and resolution
- The person is not able to send you a larger version of the posted photos on request
It is also a good idea to search for any of the photos you receive online.
The scammer’s profile is the first thing in creating his or her character since it is the first thing the victim will see. The scammer wants the profile to be appealing to his or her targets while reinforcing the image he or she wants to portray. The scammer wants to create the impression that she is a naive, beautiful, vulnerable and submissive young woman looking for a man to rescue her. The age bracket is always 18 to 35. Their professions are always feminine jobs (like a nurse, fashion model, interior decorator, no job or refugee) that make them appear compassionate and non-threatening. On rare occasions, they play the role of a female soldier as seen in the professional military scam.
Although some scammers write their own descriptive text (poor English), most scammers copy much of it from legitimate dating site profiles. Common words used include; trustworthy, caring, honest, loving, tired of games, searching for a soulmate.
Though her profile indicates that she is from UK, USA, Canada or any other country, her letter to you through email often indicates otherwise. She says she is from Russia, Ghana, Nigeria or Ivory Coast.
In conclusion, if you have initiated communication with anyone online, and the person matches many of these characteristics, you are most likely dealing with a scammer. It is also important to note that not all scammers are alike. Hence, if the person does not have any of the above characteristics, it is still important to take caution and be alert for any sign that is not right.
To be continued…