I’ve just finished reading a disturbing – and very sad – story on DailyLife.com.au written by an Australian woman who has lost six figures in an online dating scam.
The huge amount of money involved is shocking, and shows why an increasing number of scammers are using dating websites to find victims. This lady appears to be both intelligent and well educated, yet she was manipulated into paying out a large part of her savings to what was essentially a stranger.
It seemed to start innocently enough when the lady, named Jenny, decided to join a dating site after a year of being divorced in order to find a new companion.
She received a message from someone who posed as a widowed, professional man who was from overseas but working locally in the mining industry. Jenny was, of course, completely unaware that everything was untrue and the photo used in the profile was taken from an innocent man who was completely uninvolved in the fraud.
The scam followed a common pattern: build a bond with the vulnerable target as quickly as possible, tell them what they want to hear then when the time comes, come up with a story about how there is a sudden financial emergency. All this time, the scammer will avoid any physical meeting with the victim because they are are not the person in the photograph and are often not even in the same country.
Unfortunately this lady lost a large amount of money, but to her credit, she has decided to go public about it in order to help other people avoid being scammed.
While the vast majority of people using online dating services are honest and genuine, it is vital to watch out for the few that are only looking to con innocent victims. Some of the things to look out for are below.
- The person contacting you will try to move to direct communication via instant messaging as soon as possible.
- They will usually use a photograph taken from some random person’s social profile like facebook. Sometimes it is possible to catch this by checking the photo on TinEye.com
- The scammer may make spelling and grammatical errors that suggest they are not from where they say they are. If there is communication by telephone, the scammer will often have an unexpected accent.
- If the victim requests to meet in real life, the scammer will come up with stories about how that is not possible right now, with working or being away a common lie.
- Suddenly, after building a bond with the victim, an “emergency” will occur and the scammer will need urgent financial help.
The more we can do to expose these scammers, the better. You can read Jenny’s full story here.
Update: The Australian ABC website is reporting that the victim has received some of the stolen funds back. An amount of what ABC believes to be around $100,000 is back in the victim’s possession after her bank recalled some of the payments she had sent.
Nigerian police, working on information supplied by Australian police, have arrested a man and charged him with the fraud. Apparently, fingerprints from one of the documents he sent contained fingerprints of a man known to police in Nigeria.
While the lady in this case is still missing a considerable sum, at least she has recovered a sizable amount of money and an arrest has been made. You can read about the updates here.