Online dating scams and fraud are almost as old as Internet dating itself. Often called a Sweetheart Swindle this is often a long, drawn out process in which the con artist develops a relationship, and eventually convinces the victim to send money. The scammer often meets the victim in chat rooms or via online dating sites. Their object is not to get into their hearts, but get into their wallets. They will try to earn someone’s affections and trust so that they can persuade him/her to send money. The requests for money can either be a one time event or repeated over an extended period of time. The details of the scammers’ stories will vary with each case. The scenario commonly revolves around a tragedy having befallen the scammer, and he/she desperately needs money. After spending time communicating and building a relationship with the victim, the scammer will ask for help in the form of money. Most online dating services have a hard time dealing with scammers, outside of issuing warnings to their users to be alert for anyone you’ve never met asking for money.
Some potential indicators you may be dealing with a dating scam:
The online sweetie says, “I love you” almost immediately.
The person asks for money, to cash a check or money order.
The person claims to be a U.S. citizen who is abroad, well off, or a person of importance.
The person claims to be a contractor and needs help with a business deal.
The person claims to need money for a parent’s “operation in the hospital”.
The person will have an attractive photo posted on the website, but won’t be willing to send you any other photos. Most likely, that is not a real photo of the scammer.
The most straightforward type of purchase scam is a buyer in another country approaching many merchants through spamming them and directly asking them if they can ship to them using credit cards to pay.
An example of such email is as follows:
From: XXXX XXXXXX@hotmail.com] Sent: Saturday, October 1, 2005 11:35 AM Subject: International order enquiry
Goodday Sales, This is XXXX XXXXXX and I will like to place an order for some products in your store, But before I proceed with listing my requirements, I will like to know if you accept credit card and can ship internationally to Lagos, Nigeria. Could you get back to me with your website so as to forward you the list of my requirements as soon as possible. Regards, XXXX XXXXXXX Inc. 9999 XXXXX street, Mushin, Lagos 23401, Nigeria Telephone: 234-1-99999999, Fax: 234-1-9999999, Email: XXXXXXXXX@hotmail.com
Most likely, a few weeks or months after the merchant ships and charges the Nigerian credit card, he/she will be hit with a chargeback from the credit card processor and lose all the money.
Re-shipping scams trick individuals or small businesses into shipping goods to countries with weak legal systems. The goods are generally paid for with stolen or fake credit cards.
In the Nigerian version, the fraudsters have armies of people actively recruiting single women from western countries through chat and matchmaking sites. At some point, the criminal promises to marry the lady and come to their home country in the near future. Using some excuse the criminal asks permission of his “future wife” to ship some goods he is going to buy before he comes. As soon as the woman accepts the fraudster uses several credit cards to buy at different Internet sites simultaneously. In many cases the correct billind address of the cardholder is used, but the shipping address is the home of the unsuspecting “future wife”. Around the time when the packages arrive, the criminal invents an excuse for not coming and tells his “bride” that he urgently needs to pick up most or all the packages. Since the woman has not spent any money, she sees nothing wrong and agrees. Soon after, she receives a package delivery company package with pre-printed labels that she has agreed to apply to the boxes that she already has at home. The next day, all boxes are picked up by the package delivery company and shipped to the criminal’s real address (in Nigeria or elsewhere). After that day the unsuspecting victim stops receiving communications from the “future husband” because her usefulness is over. To make matters worse, in most cases the criminals were able to create accounts with the package deliverer, based on the woman’s name and address. So, a week or two later, the woman receives a huge freight bill from the shipping company which she is supposed to pay because the goods were shipped from her home. Unwittingly, the woman became the criminal re-shipper and helped him with his criminal actions.