Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A New Messenger Poses Threat of Romance Scams

A new online dating instant messenger program has now made it more important than ever to learn how to recognize the warning signs of a romance scammer.  This program has the capability of allowing one person instant messenger access to multiple online dating sites at the same time.  This means that while one person joins several online dating websites, he (it's targeting men right now) can login to this instant messenger program and access all those dating sites at once instead of going to each one by itself.  This means that he can be chatting with women from multiple dating sites at the same time through one simple program.  

What does this mean?  It means that a typical group of romance scammers who have this instant messenger program can do in minutes what it may normally take hours for them to do.  It means contacting more potential victims in one shot where it would have previously taken them much longer to do.  It means that they no longer have to work on one dating site at a time.  They can access who knows how many of the dating sites they "work" on to reach more and more victims.  It means more people are going to get hurt unless they learn how to recognize the romance scam warning signs.

The article is HERE.

There are many websites available to see the warning signs of how to recognize a romance scammer.  Some of the best signs are:
1.  Their grammar does not match their education level they claim to have or job level or location where they live.  There grammar can be horrible one minute and nearly perfect in the next minute.  You notice discrepancies in grammar from one email to the next or from one day to the next, or even within a single chat session.
2.  They push you to move from the dating site or social network such as Facebook to chat on Yahoo Messenger or Skype, although now this new online dating site messenger program could change this as well.  Be very careful of anyone who is pushing you out of your comfort zone.  
3. They push you to use your regular email account instead of the dating site email.  It is much safer for you to remain within the dating site email but if you do switch to personal email, create a specific account just for that and don't let them know your normal email address.  
4.  You have checked their IP address from the email to your personal account and the country of origin of their emails is Ghana or Nigeria or even Malaysia or anywhere else outside the normal range of the area where they say they live.
5.  Their profile gets removed from the dating site almost immediately after they are contacting you.  They do this for several reasons, one being that they paid by stolen credit card and their profile was removed by the site, two being that they don't want you to be able to compare anything they say from this point on to what was said in the profile because they will be creating a specific profile to become exactly who you are looking for.  But the reasons they give for why the profile is no longer available is because they claim to already have found the one they were looking for when they found you.
6.  They tell you they love you within the first few minutes or first few days/weeks.  Falling in love that quickly especially with someone you have not even met in person does not happen.  Real love takes time for two people to get to know each other in all types of situations.  Scammers sweet talk their victims into a false sense of security and romance, creating a dream come true.  
7.  They always seem to have reasons why you cannot meet in person.  Job, family, illness, business trips, car problems.  If you cannot meet your online interest within a few weeks time, become very suspicious.  Remember, it is much safer to keep your online dating parameters within local distance ranges that allow for face to face dates.
8.  No matter where they claim to be, suddenly the mention of Nigeria or Ghana comes into their story for whatever reason.  It may be business trips, or job contracts.  It could be to retrieve an inheritance.  It could be lots of reasons.  Whatever the reason, the mention of Nigeria or Ghana is the 100% proof you need that this is indeed a romance scammer.
9.  They want your phone number, address, or other personal information almost immediately.  They want to hear your voice.  They want to send you a gift.  Do not give out this information to anyone until you know this is not a romance scammer.  
10.  They are sending you love letters or love poetry that is not in the same type of grammar and tone that they normally email you in.  This is because they are using love letter and love poetry websites and doing a copy/paste of the letters into your email they send you.  It's all part of the social profiling/social engineering that they are doing to build up your relationship with them so they can start asking you for money.
11.  They claim to be ready to come "home" to be with you but suddenly they've been in an accident and need money for the hospital, or customs is holding them up at the airport for some reason, they need something called BTA (Basic Travel Allowance) which does not exist, they have been mugged, their child has gotten sick...many many stories and all scams.  They are now trying to get you to feel responsible for them because you love them and they want you to send them money that they will pay you back with when they see you.  Only they will never be actually coming to see you.  They will just find more and more reasons to ask you for money.  
12.  They send you flowers, teddy bears, candy, and soon after that they ask you to accept a package for them from a "client" or some other person they have explained to you.  You are then to forward that package on to them or to another person.  This is called reshipping and is a felony that can land you in prison.  Do not give them your home or work address.  They send you the gifts so they can confirm the address is correct, then try to start this reshipping project through you.
13.  They tell you they cannot cash their paycheck, or some other problem they are having with checks and money while they are overseas, so they ask you to open a bank account for them or just use your own bank account and cash the checks for them.  They may even ask you to keep some of the money for yourself but send the rest to them via Western Union.  Do not do this under any circumstances.  Just like the reshipping, this is illegal and the checks or money orders you receive are counterfeit.  Even if your bank says they have cleared in the next few days, eventually you will end up owing your bank back for any of that money you take out.  Never send cash overseas to anyone you have never met in person face to face.  Don't send cash to anyone you have only met online and/or by telephone.
14.  You talk to them on the phone or in voice chat and you notice that they have an accent that does not fit who they say they are or where they are from.  
15.  They ask you tons of questions but refuse or stall at answering your questions.  When they do answer your questions it is only after a long pause (while they go online and look up the answer).  For this reason, ask them as many questions as you can think of.  If they cannot respond to reasonable questions immediately, do not trust that they are who they claim to be.

There are many, many more warning signs than these alone.  The point is, deep down inside us we have this thing in our gut telling us when something doesn't feel right.  If you are using online dating and you start feeling this thing in your gut saying "Whoa!  Hold up a bit!" then listen to it.  The longer someone is involved in a romance scam the more difficult it is to convince them that it is a scam and the more money they will lose, in addition to being more emotionally damaged.  Listen to your gut.  Don't let a profile photo and a lot of romantic talk get the best of you.  If you need help knowing for sure, just come to us.  That's what we are here for.  You don't have to give up online dating or using social networking sites.  Just learn how to use those sites safely.


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