Scam Alert: Internet Dating and Romance Fraud

We have written about ‘romantic scams‘ in the past, but it’s time for an update thanks to new information on the U.S. State Department’s travel site. Bottom line is, do not send strangers money – even if you think you’re in love with them.

Internet Dating and Romance Scams

The warnings from the State Department are clear: Be very careful about romantic entanglements forged over the internet. Or maybe forged with someone you bumped into in Europe (or that’s what you are told, anyway). Once home, such relationships can turn ‘serious’ via email, or so the victim is led to believe.

Often, the person in Europe – who usually claims to be a U.S. citizen – plans to visit you. But the trip never comes off, as the State Department notes:

“In many scam scenarios, the correspondent suddenly falls into dire circumstances overseas (i.e. an arrest or a horrible car accident) about two to three months after a connection is made.  The correspondent will ask you to send money for hospital bills, visa fees, or legal expenses.” –State Dept. “Internet Dating and Romance Scams

If you send money, you will most likely never see it again. Until, that is, the recipient asks for more. And more.

More bizarre travel scams (and how to avoid them)

Americans Aren’t the Only Scam Targets

Police in the United Kingdom warn citizens there of similar type scams involving ‘relationships’ with British soldiers (who are typically neither British nor in the military). According to ActionFraud – the U.K.’s national fraud and internet crime reporting center – this is a typical communication to a person about to be duped [edited for clarity]:

“Work in Iraq was getting difficult especially heading up my own platoon. I was all set to come visit you with the money you sent for airfare when my car crashed on the way to the airport. I broke my leg and had to let my colleague Mr Jones take all my gold on to Ghana. Could you send me over a small amount of money via a money transfer agent to clear my hospital bill and then I can pick up my $10 million in gold and join you in the UK?” —ActionFraud

As hard as it is to believe, so-called ‘romance fraudsters’ cost U.K. residents more than £34 million in 2014 (about $50 million).

Australians aren’t immune from the such scams either. According to a media report, “Most victims of online dating scams started an online relationship which led them to send money overseas” to the tune of $23 million AUD (about $18 million U.S.).

Think it Can’t Happen to You?

A few years back, a man sued his father to try and curb his spending on internet scams – what the family believed was as much as $3 million. The alleged victim of this scam was a prominent neuroscientist.

Don’t Get Scammed

As FareCompare has advised in the past, when in doubt, do not send money. And the State Department points out that, when citizens abroad need help, all they have to do is contact the nearest embassy or consulate because “all U.S. citizens will be assisted, and no one is turned away. ”

For more information on scams and tips for dealing with suspected fraud, contact authorities at the following links:

Author:

Updated: February 20, 2015