Advanced Fee scams or ‘419 frauds’ can take a number of different forms but perhaps the most morally-reprehensible type is the ’dating scam’. These online scams depend on the increased popularity of dating websites and innocent victims looking for meaningful relationships. By slowly building a bond with unsuspecting victims, fraudsters will abuse the trust they have built to obtain monies. The following article provides some common dating scam profiles and key warning signs to watch out for.
Romance scams are crafted using basic social-engineering to elicit an emotional response. Some of the most common back-stories include:
The fraudster claims to be a soldier on a tour of duty. The scammer will ask for money to ‘purchase’ leave (to visit his now smitten victims). Pictures of existing servicemen are commonly used to bolster this particular scam. The foreign-based businessman
A businessman (possibly dealing in gold or energy) will claim to be a resident in your home country - but is currently abroad closing a deal. After obtaining the victim's confidence, the scammer may claim the deal is about to collapse unless he receives urgent financial assistance. The fraudster may continue to ask for money as the business venture experiences further ‘problems’, thus keeping him out of the country for longer time periods. The accident prone, long distance love
After developing a relationship with their victim, scammers will claim they are on their way to visit after weeks of romantic correspondence. However, their plans to travel are constantly hindered by the need to buy a new Visa, a new passport or money to pay the police / customs following an unexpected complication. Another common scam involves requests for money for hospital bills for accidents, cancer treatments, or even money for the non-existent ‘children’ of the fraudster. All are tailored to elicit an emotional response from the victim, made easier if a pseudo-relationship has been garnered for days, weeks or even months.
Key scam hallmarks
Not all dating scams fit a generic profile, so be wary of the following tell-tale signs (common to many 419 scammers, not just dating frauds): - Any requests for money should be treated with caution. Use your common sense: why have they not asked friends or family first? How well do you know them? - Requests for transfers via MoneyGram or Western Union are key indicators of a Nigerian dating scam. - If company names, addresses and / or phone numbers are provided, check them. The internet is a rich resource; check to see if others have also been de-frauded by the same person. - For more fraud-prevention information, or if you've been a victim of fraud, report it via: Actionfraud.org.uk.