We've all, at some point, put an ad on a dating site, or created a MySpace account or at the very least have an MSN or Yahoo! profile. In itself there is nothing wrong with that, it's part of enjoying and experiencing the internet. Unfortunately, another part of the internet is more sinister - romance scams.
There are people in this world who want to take your money and a vast majority of them are located in Nigeria. They pretend to be someone else, taking on the identity of someone from your country and more than likely using a photo they stole from a dating site or even a modeling site. They say the right things and make you truly believe they are a good friend and possibly that special person you have been waiting for.
Have you ever wondered if the person you were talking to was too good to be true? Were you told things that didn't quite make sense? Did they start professing their love to you in a very short time? Did they tell you they were currently on business in a foreign country, perhaps Nigeria? Did they tell you they were having trouble cashing paychecks or had family problems or were ill and in the hospital? If so, someone may have been trying to scam you.
This is a very prevalent problem on the internet and a number of romance scam information sites have popped up because of it. In particular is a Romance Scams Yahoo Group that offers support, information and healing. The owners have worked closely with the FBI and other organizations to try to put a stop to this. And were an integral part in the writing and publishing of a book on romance scams called Cyber Loves Illusions.
To protect yourself, you must educate yourself. Learn the warning signs/red flags and what to look for when someone contacts you on the internet.
And listen to my story. It is definitely not as bad as many who fell for a scam and I was lucky not to lose my heart or money but it definitely made me aware of a part of the internet I was naive to before.
He emailed me from a dating site called More2Hug. He was very sweet and kind. He told me he was British but lived in Lagos Nigeria where he did volunteer work for a local orphanage and that he had been doing it for 10 years. He sent me pictures. I liked what I saw. We chatted online every day and then he started saying that he loved me. Now, I am not naive (who didn't think I was) and told him you can't love someone you've never met and have only been talking to for a few weeks. He told me he knew what he felt. I let him continue talking thus because in all reality, it was nice to hear. However, I never told him that I loved him as I didn't. I take everything told to me over the internet with a grain of salt because I have been hurt in the past and really don't trust well.
He never asked for money. Ever. He mentioned once that his laptop was old and that he really needed a new one and asked how much they were here in Canada. When I told him, he said it was much cheaper than in Nigeria and if he sent me money could I buy one for him. Since the only way I would purchase would be with his money, I reluctantly said yes. He told me a week later that he had found someone in the US who wanted to donate to the orphanage and that they would use that money to purchase the laptop.
To make matters worse, he sent me flowers (beautiful roses) and a teddy bear that made me think "hrm perhaps he is for real". Well then I got a package in the mail from California. Inside it were 20 $100 bills. They were counterfeit - easy to tell because there were many duplicate serial numbers. That is when I told a friend what had happened and he told me about romance scams. I did a search on the internet and found the yahoo group. I reported the counterfeit to the police, RCMP and FBI. I accused my scammer but of course he denied that he knew anything about it. He professed his love to me but I said he needed to take a picture with today's date on it and send it to me before I believed him. He disappeared after that.
I felt stupid and naive. It really shook me up. It took me a long time to start trusting people, especially men, on the internet again. And I am still very wary.
This doesn't just happen to women either. It happens to men as well. And usually the people on the other end of the internet who they are talking to and think are beautiful women are actually men. People have lost their entire savings to these people.
Please, if you come away from reading this article with nothing else, be aware. Look through the links below and educate yourself. And tell your friends. Education and awareness are the only things that will slow these criminals down.
- Romance Scams Yahoo Group
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Official FBI Website
- Cyber Loves Illusions
- Information on the different scams being circulated on the internet
- Comprehensive list of photos used by known scammers