Don’t Become the Victim of an Online Dating Scam
The first ‘matrimonial service’ was first initiated in 1700 and in the 300-and-a-bit years since then it has since evolved into online dating. Today, with no sign of slowing down, more than 10% of American adults have used an online dating site or mobile dating app.
Unfortunately, the internet has also brought with it the opportunity for cybercrime, which includes a range of offences such as online piracy, identity theft, hacking, and advance fee fraud. Online dating provides a ripe opportunity for romance scams and theft.
There are organized crime syndicates that target online dating users, gaining their trust and creating a relationship in order to take advantage of others. The account-holding victims are known as ‘money mules’. Money mules were previously recruited within employment scams but it has come to surface that victims are less suspecting and more trusting in romance scams.
How does this Happen?
The fraudsters will typically create a fake profile on an online dating site. All of their information and visuals will be fake and stolen. Upon finding a victim online, they will make prompt advances to chat privately.
Over the next four to six months, the fraudster will forge a relationship with the victim, proclaiming love and forming bonds, without actually meeting them. Normally the fraudster will live or work abroad with a promise to meet up. Once the victim’s trust is gained, the fraudster will begin asking them to receive and transfer money on their behalf.
Alternatively, the ‘mule’ may be asked to receive goods, purchased online through fraud-obtained funds, and requested to forward these on to an overseas address. These packages can include illegal substances, weapons, or large amounts of cash.
Some Excuses that Fraudsters use:
- Their foreign account is giving them banking-wire issues.
- Due to a family member’s illness or funeral, employee’s salaries, or taxes, they need to have money in the mule’s country.
- Claiming to be in the military, stationed abroad, and in need of accessing funds.
- They claim to have inherited large sums of money that needs to be received in the mule’s home country.
- Packages or documents received by the mule need to be resent to someone in the mule’s home country.
Luckily, there are ways to prevent being a victim of online romance. Making yourself familiar with some of the warning signs below can stop you from being involved with a fraudster.
- Almost immediate request to move conversations from the forum to private messaging or texting.
- They quickly claim to love you and get familiar by using affectionate terms and pet names.
- They are not living locally and claim to be living or working abroad with a promise to come to your area soon.
- Their communication skills are faulty with regards to grammar.
- They are inquisitive about your life and story but are hesitant to divulge much about themselves.
- They ask you to perform money transactions on their behalf.
Online romance scammers and fraudsters often target people that appear vulnerable. This can result in the victim or ‘mule’ being embarrassed, and even traumatized, by their experience which can mean that the scam goes unreported. The scammers can then increase their scope and target more unsuspecting victims.
Become savvy with the potential romance scams in order to protect not only your heart in the online dating world, but also your money!