There Are More than a Few Bad Apples in the Basket: Romance Scams Are a Big Business
Polling conducted by the highly respected Pew Research Center indicates that one out of five adults aged between 25-34 years has used an online dating site. Sixty-six percent of all users have actually gone on dates with someone they met online. And some of these sites actually report a high success rate. They do hook up lots of people whose relationships last for an extended period of time, if not permanently. Unfortunately, real dating sites also provide scammers with an opportunity to steal your money, and your heart. Romance scams are a big business.
But there are also more than a few bad apples in the basket. Some of the bad apples are scammers who signed up on the dating sites simply to romance partners into loaning them large amounts of money. And once they have the cash, they disappear. Some of the bad apples are the dating sites themselves, whose business model is to take your money without providing any service.
Romance Scammers on Dating Sites
In 2016, Britain’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau found that singles in that year alone were conned out of £39 million by scammers they met on dating sites and smartphone dating applications. Ironically, the parties to many of these scam romances don’t even meet.
Studies show that if the scammer masquerades as a man, he typically claims to be an engineer working overseas. In fact, he does work overseas, but as a scammer. If the scammer masquerades as a woman, she typically claims to be a student. Her photo reveals enough cleavage to convince you that you’d like to meet her.
An email exchange develops. It may also evolve into regular Skype calls. You soon learn that the other party needs some money. Maybe it’s for a return flight for the guy abroad so he can finally meet you. If the scammer pretends to be a female student, the money could pay off her tuition for the rest of the semester. And then she can take time off her studies to finally meet up with you. Maybe a mother is hospitalized and the loving son or daughter can’t meet the bills. The bottom line is that they’ll tell you anything to convince you to wire some money. The practice is known as “catfishing.” According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Report, approximately 18,500 U.S. residents were catfished in 2018. They wound up losing a whopping $362,500,761.
Dating Sites that Are Romance Scams
Dating sites that seem to appeal to anyone looking for a quick fling stand a very good chance of being scams. It’s certainly easy enough for a scammer to write up virtually endless profiles of like-minded people and post them online on a fake dating site. Together with suggestive photos. It’s even easier for the scammer to just copy the profiles from a legitimate dating site. And copy racy photos anywhere on line and then simply upload them.
For those who are tantalized, they’ll find that signing up is expensive. There are always a few different payment plans. Inevitably, it will be cheaper to sign up for a number of months. But pay attention to the small print. Your membership will be automatically renewed if you don’t cancel it in advance. To do so you’ll have to jump to another page that isn’t so easy to find. That’s done on purpose to make it harder for you to quit. (And more than a few legitimate dating sites employ the same strategy.)
At any rate, you find a lot of attractive people you’d like to hook up with. You may suspect that some of them are fake, but they all can’t be, right? Sooner or later you’ll hit on one who’s real, right? So you send one a message. And then another to someone else and yet another to someone else, on and on. But there’s never a response. Not even a canned one (like “I’m interested too, please tell me more”). Perhaps at that point you’ll understand that you’ve been had. After all, once the scammer has your money, his job is done. There’s no need to deliver any goods.
If you didn’t get caught up in online romance scams and found your soulmate, there’s always the possibility of falling for wedding scams. In July 2019 a wedding planner from East Yorkshire in England simply disappeared. She allegedly took with her the hefty down payments a number of her customers paid her.
But then the story got more complicated. She also walked off with approximately £10,000 belonging to her boyfriend. To make matters worse, only after her clients filed their complaints with the police did the boyfriend learn that she was married to another man. She and her husband separated two years before. At the time she vanished she also owed £4,000 to him.
Wherever she is, she can always go back to the sort of work she did before becoming a wedding planner. Back then she coordinated funerals.
If you think you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, contact the fund recovery experts at Finance Watchdog.