Love scams are invading online dating sites like the plague! By some estimates, 1 out of every 10 online dating profiles is a fake. Even the FBI says $4,000 is lost to love scams EVERY HOUR online. And they prey on women’s desire for romance and their patriotic nature. That’s because more often than not, the scammers pose as lonely military men.

Here’s how it works: the scammer – usually in a foreign country like Nigeria or Russia – steals a picture of an attractive military man, makes up a profile and posts it on several dating sites. He sends messages to hundreds of women at once. When one responds, he explains that he’s stationed overseas – and asks if he can IM or email with you privately, off the dating-site servers. That’s so he can’t be monitored by the dating site and get kicked off! The guy may start sending you poetry – they can find it on sites like LovingYou.com.

And it’s not stupid women who are falling for these scams. Reef Karim is a therapist who works with women who have fallen for frauds. He says most of them are highly successful women, with good self-esteem, who connect emotionally to the written word. They buy into the fantasy that they’ve found “the one.”

The scams can drag on for months - then, as soon as he’s about to come home and fall into your arms, something happens. There’s an emergency and he needs money wired.

Last year, MoneyGram prevented nearly 5,000 romance-scam transactions. They’re trained to look for a certain dollar amount, going to certain countries – it sets off alarms at MoneyGram and they’ll call the woman and say, ‘Hey, wait a sec…”

The good news is, there are a bunch of websites that are looking to bust love scammers, like RomanceScams.org, ScamSurvivors.com, and ScamWarners.com. So, what are the signs that someone is playing with your emotions as a way to get to your wallet? Here are the dead giveaways - ask yourself these questions:

  • Is he a soldier, bragging about his service? Real military men are tight-lipped about the details of their service.
  • Does he try to get you off the dating site to communicate privately, right away? He’s trying to avoid being busted by the dating site.
  • Does he tell you he loves you within a couple weeks? And call you honey or love? He’s trying to quickly establish a relationship with you.
  • When you ask him a question, does it take him a minute to respond, giving him enough time to Google the right answer?
  • When you ask to Skype or voice chat – does something always come up or go wrong?

If you’re still unsure, here are two things to try: first, go to Google and select “images.” Click on the camera icon and upload pictures of your new love. You’ll see a list of places online where that image appears. If it’ linked to different name? Dead giveaway. Another way to protect yourself: go to RomanceScams.org. There’s a number embedded in every email that reveals where it’s coming from – they’ll tell you how to find it. So, if he says he’s on a base in Ohio, but the email is coming from Nigeria, you’re falling for a scammer. Report them to the FBI at IC3.gov.

Lesson Expert

Betsy Chase

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