Their affair was purely an online connection–a dalliance into digital romance with hopes of leading to something real. She met him on a dating site where he stood out among all the other suitors. They would never meet in person, but she still fell in love and wanted to make him happy. After a six-month virtual fling, she had lost over $100,000, and he had disappeared into the online void.
She fell for a romance scam. It is sometimes referred to as “catfishing” because of the virtual fishing line scammers cast to hook their victims, predominantly older widowed or divorced women. The scammers, who claim to live outside of or across the country, learn everything they need to know about their victims from their social media posts.
They may start small with a request for $50 for a bus ticket, then work up to a $40,000 loan request to cover a medical emergency–and their love only gets more expensive from there. They promise to repay the victim, but after a lot of procrastination, they vanish into thin air.
Tips for Avoiding Dating Scams
If you make a romantic connection online, don’t go any further until you consider the following:
- Take it slowly and ask a lot of questions.
- Search the person’s profile text and photo and see if they appear elsewhere online.
- Be suspicious if the person is quick to want to leave the dating site or social media to communicate “offline.”
- Keep on guard if the person proclaims their feelings of love early.
- Beware if the person claims to be a U.S. citizen but is working overseas.
- Be suspicious if the person offers multiple times to meet in person, but always has an excuse when he can’t.
- Act cautiously if, for whatever reason, you haven’t met in person after several months.
- Never send money to anyone you haven’t met in person.
If any of these red flags pop up, you may be caught in a dating scam. Stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.
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