(The FBI says it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, so the real numbers are probably higher.) As one result, fear of a horrible first date is just one of the things a would-be online dater has to worry about. “Most people think the victims are middle-aged women who can’t get a date, but I have worked with men and women of all ages—doctors and lawyers, CEOs of companies, people from the entertainment industry—who you’d never think in a million years would fall for these scams but do,” says Barb Sluppick, who runs Romance Scams, a watchdog site and online support group.
According to a recent Consumer Reports Online Dating Survey of more than 114,000 subscribers, among the respondents who were considering online dating but were hesitant, 46 percent said they were concerned about being scammed. “Typically the scammer builds trust by writing long letters over weeks or months and crafting a whole persona for their victims,” says David Farquhar, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.
“That big investment gives victims a false sense that the relationship must be real.” Eventually a pitch for money comes.
It really is a consumer issue worthy of our attention." said Margot Gilman, money editor for Consumer Reports.Just over a year ago, the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—had pleaded 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.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.Clicking any of the links will take you to the retailer's website to shop for this product.Please note that Consumer Reports collects fees from both e Bay Commerce Network and Amazon for referring users.Experts say online daters are always wise to be skeptical regarding what someone they’ve met online, and not in the flesh, tells them.Most dating websites—even ones that cost money—don’t vet the people who sign up.If the images come up associated with a person who has another name or lives in a different city, you have good reason to suspect they were stolen from someone else’s profile.And if you’ve been communicating with someone by email, check their address at a site such as Romance Scams, which compiles lists of email addresses belonging to known scammers. Type the name of the person you met online into Google or Bing and see what comes up. If you are asked to send money and feel so inclined, run the whole scenario by someone you trust.