Single Ladies Beware: Romance Scams Are On The Rise

December 21, 2011  |  

When the loneliness gets too hard to bear, many people seek comfort from the Internet. But be careful— romance scammers are waiting. We’re not talking about the kind that try to steal your heart and turn out to be just as trifling as the ones you met in person. We’re talking about the scammers that are simply out for your money. Reuters reports that romance scams are “long-term romantic relationships that thieves cultivate with a potential victim.” In the midst of the holiday season, they’re on the rise.

When it comes to romance scams there is no discrimination: victims range from 18 to 81 and come from all socioeconomic backgrounds. Although scam artists make it difficult to give romance scams an exact number, Western Union reports that these scams are one of the top five customer complaints. Since November, the company has observed a 30 percent increase in romance scam reports.

Barb Sluppick, who was almost a victim herself, tells Reuters that “if you are on the Internet and you have an email address and you are open to having a relationship with someone, you can become a victim.”

She founded the support and awareness internet group, and has had more than 48,000 people join her site since 2005. 1,165 people on the site have disclosed how much money they lost to scammers lost with a total of $14.1 million.

The scam starts off simple enough with a friendly and innocent meeting on a dating site or forum. After weeks and sometimes months of communication over email, phone calls or instant messages, a trust begins to form between the two budding lovers, so that strong that they can begin to ask for money. Sometimes the person needs money to help pay for travel to see you, their newfound love. Sometimes they tell you they need help paying for holiday gifts or for a series of unfortunate events that have happened recently.

“I am not an ignorant person. I am educated and intelligent,” Jan Miller said to Reuters. The registered nurse and mother of three thought she had found a wonderful potential mate in a guy she met online who claimed to be living in Seattle.

“I told myself he has to be real, because why would anyone spend that much time talking to someone if they were not real?”

Her internet “friend” asked her for money after he had run into misfortune while on a business trip in London. Miller obliged and when it didn’t seem as if he was coming back to the US, she slowly began to realize she had been scammed, and found out he was part of a team of scammers in Nigeria.

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, most of the scams derive from Nigeria, Ghana, England and Canada. In most of these international scamming cases, the money is never recovered and the thieves are hard to shut down.

Perhaps it’s best this holiday season to enjoy your singleness and your money. If you do choose to chat with someone online, keep in mind that until you’ve met this person, he/she doesn’t deserve a dime of your hard earned money. After all, we are still in a recession.


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