Dating website scam artists

In mid December the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—pled guilty to conning tens of millions of dollars from Americans via online dating sites.

While the case was remarkable for its magnitude, when it comes to so-called “romance scams,” it still represents just the tip of the iceberg.

And if the person’s online profile disappears a few days after they meet you, that’s another tip-off.

Here’s the real deal: Don’t send money to someone you met online — for any reason.

A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigned romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud.

Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victims' money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, or national identification numbers or by getting the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.

This makes it hard for the victim to do due diligence.

The scammer might say that an immediate family member has a medical emergency and needs money for treatment, or that he has been wrongly arrested and needs help with bail money and legal support.

Scammers create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. And they tug at your heartstrings with made-up stories about how they need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel. Here’s how it works: The scammers set up dating profiles to meet potential victims.

Here is what I have experienced (luckily, I was smart enough not to fall for it): A guy starts communicating with a “woman” (the pictures are attractive).

Initial contact between victim and scam artist is to take the step in starting a relationship.

Victims think they’re just helping out their soulmate, never realizing they’re aiding and abetting a crime.

Here are some warning signs that an online love interest might be a fake.

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