The growing popularity of online dating coupled by the anonymity has led to an increase in Internet dating scams. It is terrible enough to rip an already lonely heart - but to rip the heart as well as owner's bank account? Talk of extreme brutality, and yes, heartlessness.
Internet dating scams come in various forms and the perpetrators are always creating new ones. An obvious one is the scam dating site. This is simply a fly-by-night operation, out to sell as many memberships as possible and then disappear without offering service.
Such a scam site will almost certainly cost far less than a typical dating site, while promising to deliver similar offer better service. Well, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
A variation of scam dating sites is the *** ographic site disguised as a dating site or, more often, an adult dating site. Usually, such a site will use images of attractive “members" to lure you in.
Some knowledgeable prostitutes have discovered that it is more profitable - and much safer - to post a profile on an adult dating site than to work the streets. Better still for the prostitute, she (and in some cases he) has a global market.
But Internet dating scams begin to get more complex when they go international. The most common one is Russian mail-order bride scam. This one targets people from first world countries (the USA being prime target).
Most Russian Internet dating scams start with the man being contacted by an attractive young woman. Often, but not always, the man is much older than the woman. The scammer is counting on such a man being gullible due to being flattered by the thought of a young attractive woman showing interest in him.
After a few emails, the woman claims to be in love with the man, and wants to join him in his country. She requests money for a passport, visa, air ticket and traveling expenses (at the same time or in stages). She suggests wire money transfer or other irreversible means of sending out money.
Once the man sends the money, two things may happen. The woman might simply disappear. Or there might be a family “tragedy" for which she needs extra cash from the hapless man. She might also claim to be held an airport happen for various reasons. The objective is to milk as much money as possible out of the poor guy.
This type of scam is typically carried out by Russian men or syndicates who hire women (for very minimal fees) to use there profiles and pick the money up for them.
Unfortunately, this scam is also helped by attitudes and stereotypes. The perception of Russian women as desperate to leave their country is one example. So is the assumption that everybody wants to immigrate to the west, especially the USA.
There is also the Nigerian (and lately Ghanaian) scam. Nigerian scams are a little harder to detect in that most con-artists are usually well-learned people who usually do their homework; and they can be unusually patient.
You get contacted by a “US citizen" working in foreign country. Once the contact is and some level of trust established, the scam artist asks you to cash money orders for him/her. The money orders are fraudulent and you are left to pay your bank of the amounts paid.
Sometimes the scammer is not after money. They are after shipping help, for goods bought with stolen credit cards.
Most scams start at Internet chat rooms or free dating sites. Why? Because the scam artist wants to scam as many people as possible without spending money. Also, pay sites require the use a credit card, which can be traced back to the owner.
How do you protect yourself from these or other types of Internet scams? There are no guarantees, just as you don't have a guarantee of not getting in an accident because you are a careful driver. But you can minimize the risk, or become a hard target (scammers are lazy people and will go for the easiest target).
1. For starters, sign up with a reputable dating site. A paid site is always safer as one is required to use a credit card, which can be traced back to the owner. Of course there is the possibility of someone using a stolen credit card, but the risk is minimal compared to a free site or chat room.
2. Beware of someone who claims to fall in love with you after just a few emails. Start by being skeptical.
3. Never send money to a stranger in another country. Heck, never send money to a stranger in your own country (duh!).
4. Do not give out personal details such as home address, phone number, bank account, real email, or credit card number. Do not even give out your real name until you are sure the person is for real, and certainly not after two or three emails.
5. Do not deposit a money order from your “date" in your bank account. If you do, wait a couple of weeks to make sure it's not counterfeit. Better still, wait for the money order to clear before forwarding the money.
6. Ask for more than one photograph. A scam artist from, say Nigeria, would usually have a difficult time faking more than one photograph. Also, ask lots of specific questions. If you sense discomfort or vagueness on the other end, cut the relationship.
7. Follow your guts. If something feels wrong, it probably is. If it's too good to be true, it usually is.
Do not let bad apples stop you from finding love online. Many people have found happy, lasting relationships with local or foreign partners they met on the web. Just know that Internet dating scams are real, and keep alert for red flags.
David Kamau is webmaster of a Dating Review Site . Now check out Top 10 Dating Sites and find the right one for you.