20 20 internet dating scams

Scammers, hiding behind fictitious profiles, initiate a relationship with an individual seeking companionship, marriage, or a sexual relationship. These relationships develop quickly and intensely. One character commonly described by victims is an attractive, wealthy American citizen living abroad, frequently in Nigeria or another west African country.

Once a potential victim has built a strong emotional bond with his or her would-be lover, the scammer will begin to solicit funds in order to deal with a series of increasingly unfortunate situation.

Watch out for 'online romance scams,' BBB warns

These complications may be family-related a close family member is very sick and needs financial assistance or travel-related a hotel manager has seized my passport, or immigration officials require bribes. Payments are often made through wire transfer, although victims have been asked to send physical goods, like electronics, as well [6].

Once a payment has been made, the scammer will stumble into more and more tragic situations, requiring more and more money from the victim, until the victim terminates the relationship or the scammer ceases contact. This model is but one common scam with endless variations. These operations may be individual, amateur efforts, or executed by larger crime syndicates based overseas [7]. Entrenched criminal organizations have greater resources to set up more believable scams, like those featuring the invented "John Scofield," a well-connected, handsome character living in Florida; Scofield's profile was used simultaneously in multiple scams around the country [8].

All demographics are at risk for online dating scams. However, scams disproportionately target older women: Women who have been divorced, disabled, or widowed are also prime targets. This data is likely under-reported due to victims' embarrassment and the psychological impact of the crimes [9]. It is also believed that these scams are designed such that victims self-select; the nature of the scams decreases victim density and selects only the most vulnerable victims [10].

In one case published by the U. State Department , a male dating-service user has courted a potential companion for several months before being asked for money to cover her bizarre expenses [12]:. In this case, the male suitor began to ask probing questions about his online companion's access to credit , her exact location, and her family resources. After several unconvincing answers the scammer claims her country is West Africa and that her entire family perished recently in a plane crash , the suitor terminates the relationship, avoiding fraud. This situation illustrates several common characteristics of scams.

Other notable examples include those with actual photographs used to deceive potential victims. These images often appear to be modified or copied out of glamour magazines; unrealistically attractive or flawless people are often indicators of some degree of fraud [13].


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As an outsider, many online romance scams seem obvious. Fifty-two percent of Internet-using adults have heard of these deceptions [14]. One out of fifty adults online personally know a victim [14]. In popular culture, like the television show Flight of the Conchords , online scam victims are portrayed as naive, oblivious, or out-of-date [15].

And how cybercriminals use them to trick you

Despite this, people continue to be duped by these scams. Many psychological effects, including self-deception , optimism bias , and the valence effect , cause people to fall for these scams. Self-deception is when a person rationalizes away or denies opposing evidence or logic. In online romance scams, victims overlook noticeable red flags for personal reasons.

One victim who exhibited this effect is Dori Hartley. After surviving cancer, Dori Hartley was in a five year online relationship with a scammer pretending to be a cancer patient named "Dimitri. To an outside observer, this action seems suspicious and characteristic of an online dating scam. However, Dori overlooked her lover's suspect claim:. Dori's recent psychological trauma caused her to rationalize this suspicious activity for a shot at love with someone who also experienced the same pain and suffering she did.

Victims project their own perceptions on suspicious behavior because they desperately want their online relationship to succeed. People who recently experienced hardship, such as divorcees and widowers, tend to fall in this category. Optimism bias is when someone feels less at risk for a negative outcome than the average person. Many victims believe that because so many people use online dating sites, their chances of coming across a romance scammer are fairly slim.

One out of five single Americans have gone on a date with someone they met online [18].

How A Billion-Dollar Internet Scam Is Breaking Hearts And Bank Accounts | HuffPost Life

The optimism bias causes legitimate users of online dating websites to underestimate their own risk of encountering an online romance scam. However, all demographics are at risk for online dating scams, and more people on dating websites can lead to more scammers looking to exploit them. The valence effect occurs when people tend to overestimate the probability of a positive event.

Victims of online romance scams are often influenced by the perceived success of online dating websites. In the United States, seventeen percent of couples married between and met through an online dating service [18]. On average, Americans matched on eHarmony are married every day [17].


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Victims of online romance scams believe they will have the same success in their online relaitionships. Online dating has been featured in popular culture. Popular films, such as You've Got Mail and Must Love Dogs , feature protagonists who meet online, fall in love, and live happily ever after. These movies perpetuate unrealistic, pristine expectations for online relationships and may shape victims' assumptions, causing them to overlook suspicious online behavior in exchange for a chance at love. Online Dating Scams use internet technology to augment scamming practices that have existed for hundreds of years.

A con man steals one woman's heart — and $300,000. Here's how it happened.

The evolution of technology in scams can be analyzed through three case-studies: Baker said that the money transfer services Western Union and MoneyGram are making "more efforts to protect people. If you were scammed as far back as all the way through January , he recommends filing a claim on the FTC's website. Baker said that he thinks there are still steps he thinks the dating sites and apps can do to "warn their victims.

Menendez meets with federal workers affected by gov't shutdown Senate meets during day 28 of government shutdown Developing major winter storm over the Plains: Adding guacamole could boost online daters' popularity. Watch out for 'online romance scams,' BBB warns. Pelosi cancels trip, accuses White House of security leak. Winter storm headed to Northeast: What to know about the latest forecast.


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