Monday, February 17, 2014

Ten Frequently Asked Questions About Romance Scams

by Soraya  (formerly credited as Soraya Grant)

1. What is a romance scam?

A romance scam is a situation in which any person or group of people creates a character and plays that character online with the goal of tricking others into falling in love with that person who does not truly exist.

2. Why do people run romance scams?

Most romance scams are run to manipulate the victims into giving the scammer money. Romance scams are also run to manipulate the victims into performing illegal acts for the scammer, for personal revenge, or for a general sense of revenge on the world or a type of person.

3. Who runs romance scams?

The majority of romance scams are run by organized criminal rings in Nigeria, Ghana, Malaysia, or the former Soviet Union, but scammers can and do operate in all countries, including the United States. The MTV show "Catfish" offers several examples of American romance scams.

4. How can I stop romance scams?

The only way to stop romance scammers is to cut off their supply of victims. Know the red flags and share the information with anyone you know who communicates with people online.

5. I checked to make sure the emails and phone calls I am getting weren't from Nigeria or any other country with a high concentration of romance scammers. Doesn't that mean I'm safe?

It's a good first step, but not a guarantee that the person you are talking to is not a scammer. Many scam rings in those areas have learned how to mask ip address and cell phone numbers. It is also possible that the scammer was from the place they claimed to be from. Scammers exist in all countries, including the United States.

6. I do all my research. I check names, workplaces, and towns where they person says they live and make sure somebody by that name exists where they say they do. Doesn't that mean I'm safe?

Again, not necessarily. At least one member of SOTH was scammed by an American man who gave her his real name, hometown, workplace, employment history, and a true story about a deceased second wife. The victim later realized that he used his real name to make it easier to ask for and cash checks sent by his victims, and added the additional real details because he would be busted immediately if he lied about those. Everything else he told his victims turned out to be false.

7. How can I tell if someone is a scammer?

The main red flags of a scammer are described in detail in several articles on this web site, but the two biggest ones are asking or dropping hints for money, gifts, or favors involving shipping or banking, and claiming to fall in love with or feel a connection with you in the first days, weeks, or months of meeting you online.

8. How can I get money I sent to a scammer back?

You can't. In the years that we have been dealing with romance scams, we have only seen one or two instances where the scammer was even caught and prosecuted, and as of the time of this writing, nobody has gotten their money refunded.

9. Are they going to use the pictures, chat dialogue, or other information I gave them to get revenge on me or to scam others?

We can't promise anything, but scammers almost never make good on threats to post revealing photos or dialogue to porn sites, send them to employers, etc. This would draw unwanted attention to the scammer and cut into the time they want to devote to gathering and working on new victims. Scammers are in it for their own goals. Scammers do collect photos and other materials to use in future scams, and some of that does come from past victims. However, with all the sources for pictures, dialogue, and other details available around the internet, the odds are very slim that your materials are the ones that are going to be selected.

10. Don't you have to be pretty naïve to fall for a romance scam?

Scammers will certainly use a naïve person's eagerness to trust others against them, but they are also ready and willing to exploit cynicism, paranoia, and any other negative or positive trait they can manipulate to get their way.


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