Sweetheart Scams & Other Internet Dating Scams

February 18, 2010

With millions looking for love online, sweetheart scams (also known as 419 scams ) are occurring in epic proportions. And many are finding out they’ve lost a lot more than their hearts.

How does it work?

Dating scammers use several common methods to get you to part with your money. Below, you’ll find the most common.

The I’m Working Abroad and I Can’t Cash My Paycheck Scam
The scammer tells the victim that they’re working out of the country, but they’re having a hard time cashing their paycheck at a foreign bank. They ask you if you’ll cash a money order for them, and wire the money.

What happens next:
You deposit the money order, wire the cash, and all is lovely until a few days later when your bank discovers that the money order is fake and debits your account for the full amount. Bad news for you, as you’ve already sent the cash to Nigeria.

The I Was On My Way To The Airport And I Got Into A Terrible Accident Scam
You’ve met online, you’ve made a connection, and he/she can’t wait to be with you, so you send money for a plane ticket. Bad news! On the way to the airport, your date meets with a terrible accident and shockingly, the hospital only takes cash.

What happens next:
Maybe you talk on the phone to a fake hospital administrator, maybe you just send the money right away. Either way, your sweetheart’s medical issues will continue to get worse, and more expensive until you run out of cash. Then, you’ll never hear from them again.

The Great Expectations Scam
You sign up via high pressure sales tactics with a local dating agency only to discover they’ve misrepresented the number of members, number of potential matches for you, or number of couples who’ve met through their service — but by the time you find out, you’re already past their 3-day contract cancellation window.

What happens next:
You’re probably out thousands of dollars. Check with your state Attorney General to see what your next steps are, and mention the Arizona Attorney General’s case.

How to protect yourself:

1) Don’t send money to someone you’ve never met in person. Sweetheart scammers will take months to set you up, and it will feel like a real relationship.

2) Most internet dating scams originate in Nigeria and Russia, so be extremely cautious with dating anyone living in those regions, even if they pretend to be from the UK or USA.

3) Stay on the dating site to communicate, don’t give out your personal email. Many sites are set up to flag members who ask for money and shut them down.

4) Guard your account information and personal information carefully

5) Some dating sites claim to protect you from scams, however you should always be sure to follow Internet safety precautions.

6) Don’t send money.

7) Trust your gut instinct. Many victims of Internet crime have reported feeling like something was “not quite right.” Pay attention to what your instincts are telling you.

If you’ve been scammed on the Internet, who should you report it to? The Internet Crime Complaint Center


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Dating Coach and Relationships Expert Lisa Daily is the bestselling author of two dating books, Stop Getting Dumped!, How to Date Like a Grownup and the totally funny novel Fifteen Minutes of Shame. You???ve seen her everywhere from Entertainment Tonight to the HITCH movie DVD.

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