Online dating scams true stories

Clues for spotting fake profiles. Example to chat privately. They may use a fictional name, or falsely take on the identities of real, trusted people such as military personnel, aid workers or professionals working abroad.

Romance fraud - a victim's story

Dating and romance scammers will express strong emotions for you in a relatively short period of time, and will suggest you move the relationship away from the website to a more private channel, such as phone, email or instant messaging. They often claim to be from Australia or another western country, but travelling or working overseas. They may take months to build what may feel like the romance of a lifetime and may even pretend to book flights to visit you, but never actually come.

They may also ask you to send pictures or videos of yourself, possibly of an intimate nature. Often the scammer will pretend to need the money for some sort of personal emergency. For example, they may claim to have a severely ill family member who requires immediate medical attention such as an expensive operation, or they may claim financial hardship due to an unfortunate run of bad luck such as a failed business or mugging in the street.

The scammer may also claim they want to travel to visit you, but cannot afford it unless you are able to lend them money to cover flights or other travel expenses. Sometimes the scammer will send you valuable items such as laptop computers and mobile phones, and ask you to resend them somewhere. They will invent some reason why they need you to send the goods but this is just a way for them to cover up their criminal activity.

Alternatively they may ask you to buy the goods yourself and send them somewhere. You might even be asked to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it to someone else. Warning - the above scenarios are very likely to be forms of money laundering which is a criminal offence. Never agree to transfer money for someone else. They will tell you they need your money to cover administrative fees or taxes. I felt like a jerk for stringing her along. I decided to write an email, from the real me, to the real Cindy.

I intended to tell her a bit about me, but I found myself telling her a lot. I told her my family came to Australia when the war in Yugoslavia began, and that my dad died when I was a child. I said I felt lonely and friendless.

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And as I wrote, I found myself tearing up. I said that if she told me about her real life, about scamming, I would find some money to send her. She wrote back ignoring most of what I said, emphasizing that she was not a scammer — and including her Western Union details. I felt a pang of annoyance and embarrassment for opening up to her. Did she think I was an idiot?

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Cindy and I went back and forth playing this game: We were at an impasse. She called me a wicked, selfish woman. She said she never wanted to hear from me again. And for the first time in a long time, my computer went silent. After Cindy dumped me, I felt like I understood Bill better. And then, one day, Cindy asked for my photo. That night she sent an email: I Love Every little thing about you. Dating Valentine's Day Scams features. One woman from a small town in Illinois showed up at the door of his home, he said. He said his motive in speaking publicly was simple: The social network giant has facial recognition software that could help identify fraudulent photo use.

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'Are You Real?' — Inside an Online Dating Scam

Social media and dating sites, where people volunteer details about their personal lives, are a natural habitat for scammers. Dating sites appear to be aware of the role they play, however unintentionally, in romance fraud. It is standard for such sites to disclaim any responsibility for fake profiles that appear. An industry executive, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told HuffPost that some sites fight back surreptitiously.

They block users who they suspect are scammers without telling them. Any money paid is returned on the back end to the presumably stolen credit card.

Dating & romance | Scamwatch

Victims need to be told: If the person is not willing to meet them in the first month, move on to find someone who will! Some sites do a better job of actively monitoring for fraudulent activity. Zoosk , a dating app with 40 million online profiles and members in 80 countries, lets users make a video of their face with the app that a human moderator will then view and match up with the submitted photos.

Facebook, the largest social network by magnitudes, is also a playground for scammers. Many scam victims told HuffPost that they feel Facebook is not sufficiently proactive when it comes to weeding out and blocking the fraudsters.


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Facebook declined to give any details about its risk mitigation systems or say how many compromised accounts are caught. The site asks users to report posts or messages that ask them to inappropriately share personal information or send money.

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Voss declined to discuss how many reports it receives. The issue of what responsibility social networks, including Facebook, bear for enabling scammers is one that troubles many victims. Grover, of ScamHaters, thinks that Facebook could be more cooperative in policing its site.

Facebook declined to respond to questions regarding its general criteria for removing pages or why it has taken down some specific sites, but individuals do appear to be using the site to facilitate financial scams. It had grown to almost 1, members over the course of several hours. When it was reported, Facebook took it down.

Dating & romance

But as soon as one page is removed, another seems to replace it. HuffPost also found this page called Yahoo Boys, which Facebook has since removed. But, he noted, sometimes it is done more openly. HuffPost also found five active Facebook profiles using different names but displaying the same photos.

Two of the five were taken down before we could screenshot them; here are the three that remained. Scam victim sites suggested that the man in the photo is actually a singer in the U. Facebook declined to comment on the specifics of these screenshots. For example, when someone receives a friend request, our systems are designed to check whether the recipient already has a friend with the same name, along with a variety of other factors that help us determine if an interaction is legitimate.

The FBI said it does not comment on the policies and practices of private companies, and a Justice Department spokesman said that as a matter of policy, it would not publicly discuss prosecution strategies.


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Jones, the hypnotherapist whose photos are regularly lifted from Facebook, argues however that if the site really tried, it could quash the problem entirely. He thinks that the large sites have programs in place that thwart scams pre-emptively and thus reduce the risk to users. Still, ZeroFox conducted a study of money scams on Instagram last year and found that scams were being created at an estimated rate three times higher than the rate at which they were being taken down. Every digital device connected to the internet has an Internet Protocol address, a unique set of numbers that reveals, among other information, the country in which it is connected.

Anyone can check an IP address , though some browser extensions will send an alert if someone is doing that. So savvy scammers use a virtual private network to hide their IP addresses. Scammers like to move their conversation with their victims off Facebook or online dating services and onto other messaging platforms where, unbeknownst to their victims, they can organize all their communications.

Leaving Facebook as soon as possible also protects the scammer from the risk that their fake profile may be reported and taken down. Scammers never want to appear on camera in a live video chat, but will sometimes send a prerecorded video that shows what a loving dad they are or how handsome they look captaining their sailboat. Obviously, these videos are stolen, too.