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Romance Scam: Threatens Both Male and Female, Revived in Cyberspace, Left Broken Hearts and Wallets

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I love writing about a wide variety of things, from the fascinating to the absurd.

Romance Scam Factoid 3 out of 4 romance scam victims in Australia, even after being told they have been victimized, continue to send money to the romance scammer. (source)

Introduction

Romance Scam, also known as dating scam, is not new, but it is growing year to year. Report by Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) issued in 2012 revealed that 51% of all romance scam complaints are people over 50, with total reported losses over 56 MILLION dollars. This was up from previous year's report of just over 50 million in losses. What's worse, the older the victim, the heavier their losses.

The actual losses are believed to be much much higher, esp. because older victims are less likely to report the crime.

Australian detectives estimate that one million Australian dollars have gone to West Africa EVERY MONTH due to romance scams, and that's NOT counting amount lost to Asian and European scam gangs.

What's interesting is majority of victims are women in the past two years, especially older women. What was commonly perceived to be a crime perpetrated against lonely lecherous men is now an equal opportunity crime aimed at both genders.

In this article, we will examine who are behind dating scams, how a dating scam works, anatomy of a fake profile, and tips on how to avoid dating scams.

Internet Dating or Dating Scam?

Internet Dating or Dating Scam?

Who Are Dating Scammers?

Dating Scams are usually perpetrated by groups of individuals operating out of Africa or Eastern Europe, though recently there has been a surge of similar scam groups in Malaysia, Philippines, and even in UK itself.

A scam group scan be comprised of up to 30 people, using multiple laptops, operating out of a single office in an obscure part of town, mooching internet connections from cybercafes or share 3G mobile hotspots, and collude on how to scam lonely people, esp people in the following demographics:

  • Older people (likely to have a bit of savings)
  • Widows or widowers (likely to have money from dead spouse)
  • Disabled (likely to have received settlement payments)

They will often pick a particular target group to go after. For example:

  • Fake younger attractive woman would be used to scam older gentlemen
  • Fake Mature man would be used to scam older ladies

A single scammer, usually male, will control a dozen of these puppet profiles, though they usually specialize in either fake male or fake female. It is rare for a scammer to run both.

Romance scam group members often share scripts they had written with each other, to save on "setup time". It takes time and effort to create puppet profiles and they are often cloned.

Nigeria busted one such group in January 2013. There are hundreds of these groups all across the world still scamming.

It's a scam!

It's a scam!

How a Romance Scam Works

All scams have four stages: tease, please, seize, squeeze.

Tease: If you have a dating profile online at any of the dating sites, such as Match, OkCupid, Badoo, and so on, you may get a request / flirt or find a perfect match: similar interests, looks absolutely beautiful or handsome. Alternatively, you may get a friend request from your social network such as Facebook or MySpace. Again, similar interests, looks absolutely handsome or beautiful. This is the "tease" stage. They have to get your interest.

Please: You two proceed to chat, about inane things. The other party will quickly call you by an endearing nickname, like honey, baby, sweetie, etc. Sometimes, the other party may insist on taking the chat off the platform's chat function to something "more private" like texting or such. That's the "please" stage, where your relationship is cemented. You feel like you're practically engaged to this person, your soul mate.

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Seize: After a few weeks, now comes the "seize" stage, where you are requested to send some money, probably not for himself, but for his relatives, his charity, his business, and so on. This may be a smaller amount, but it's not uncommon for a scammer to ask to borrow $10000 USD. There is usually some sort of excuse, like "foreign law prevents me from sending money myself". Sometimes, it's "for a plane ticket to visit you in person" (which will inevitable be postponed due to "unforeseen circumstances")

NOTE: Even if you tell them you have no money they'll probably plead and cajole and ask you to borrow it from your friends and relatives "for a good cause". If you have no friends to borrow from, see "variations" below.

Squeeze: If you sent money, you will proceed to the "squeeze" stage where the scammer will try to continue to squeeze money out of you, a bit at a time, until you realize you're in a scam, was "rescued" by the authorities or friends/relatives, or you have nothing to give.

Variations: sometimes, romance scammers don't need the victims to pony up the money him- or herself. This often happens when the victim confess to having no money at the "seize" stage. The victim then is handed to a subset of the group that specialize in setting up the victim for the "cash back" scam or "reshipping scam". Basically the victim is convinced to cash a fake check and keep a part of the proceeds, or victim receive merchandise bought with stolen credit card and was asked to reship it to some other address. You just became accessory to fraud.


Anatomy of Fake Profile

The most important part of a fake profile is the primary photo, the picture that appears first. It must be attractive enough to grab the attention of the intended target.

Facebook is a Godsend to scammers as that provided a ton of pictures to pilfer, and sometimes, cloned.

Other favorite sources of scam profile pictures includes porn archives, model portfolios, and more. Here are some examples:

Real Facebook Engagement... fake Mr. Maupin

Real Facebook Engagement... fake Mr. Maupin

Facebook based fakery

Here's an engagement announcement on Facebook between a victim Sandi Martini, and a scammer 'Shawn Maupin', who used an innocent guy's photo. The photo belongs to a real ex-military guy whose name is Corby Maupin, married, and on Facebook as Corby181.

The scammers kept the last time because Mr. Maupin sometimes appear in his military uniform which has his name tag on it showing his surname, but scammers then simply created fake first names for the fake profiles.

Facebook timeline provides a LOT of pictures for any would-be scammer to clone someone else's life. You may not even realize who's the clone and who's the real thing.

In this particular case, the victims had been warned.

Pretty Girl? "Teen" Porn Star.

Pretty Girl? "Teen" Porn Star.

Porn-based fakery

If the profile is of a young attractive woman, it probably came from a softcore porn archive. Here are some examples.

To the right is a young attractive girl in pigtails and a pink shirt. Yes, she's cute.

But is she prospective date material?

Perhaps not when you consider she's found in no less than a DOZEN different profiles, all different names.

Some of these names don't sound "white" at all. They sound like randomly made-up names by people who barely know English, and chose two first names, like "Brooke Bella" or "Ruth Abbey".

Some of these names sound distinctly African, like "Gabbish" or "Amoako Alex", which would be VERY unusual on a girl who's "white as snow" (okay, slight exaggeration)

And the first search result is WHoScammedMe scam archive, which indexes these fraudulent uses of photos.

Then you find she's none other than the teen soft porn star "Megan QT". Who can probably be found on sites that contains the words like "coed" and "cherry" and "xxx" and "revealed" and such.

Such soft porn sites are FULL of pictures that would make GREAT profile photos... because they *are* profile photos.

I'm sure you randy males would LOVE a chance to bonk someone like that, but it's pretty obvious that NONE of these profiles are real. They are probably all created by dating scammers.

Some things really are too good to be true.

VARIATIONS: some fake profiles steal pictures from smaller European social networks, making them much harder to detect. Beware.