While online dating sites work hard to eliminate scammers from their sites, unfortunately some continue to be very deceptive and get past the fraud checks so it is important to be aware of what a potential scammer might attempt to do. Nobody wants to be scammed yet most people are not quite sure what to look out for. These are examples of some of the most notorious scams in the world of online dating and on the internet in general.
Top Online Scams
- The Nigerian/Ghana Emergency Scam
- Plane Ticket & Visa Scam
- Medical Emergency Scam
- Nigerian 419 Scam
- Fake Police Scam
- Cashing Money Order Scam
- Lottery Scams
- Phony Inheritance Scams
- Disaster Relief Scams
- Business Investment Scams
- Job Scams, Online Classified Scams & Phishing
1. Nigerian/ Ghana Emergency Scam
This is one of the most popular scams in online dating. Nigeria and Ghana are notorious for their scammers and hence most people probably wouldn’t pursue a relationship with someone from one of these countries. These scammers are well aware of this and therefore often pretend to be from the USA/ UK/ Australia/ Canada or some other Western country.
Armed with their fake identity, the scammer proceeds to forge a bond with you. They often communicate with you for weeks and months so you think you are getting to know them better while it is actually all part of their master plan. The standard scam story then starts to unfold as your online date suddenly has some sort of emergency in Nigeria or Ghana. The stories may range from a businessman having an accident while in Nigeria for work to a helpless woman being stranded in Ghana; from asking for charity donations for Africa to a family member having a brain hemorrhage while in Africa. At the end of the day they all have the same basic plot – there is an emergency and won’t you please send them some money? Rest assured, once you do send the money that is the last you will hear of them and your money.
2. Plane Ticket/ Visa Scam
This is a common ploy used by Russian and Filipino scammers to rob you off your money. The general storyline is she will want to come visit you but does not have enough money and will ask you to send her money to help pay for the plane ticket and/or visa. Once you do send the money however, it is unlikely that the visit will ever actually materialize.
As many people are now catching on to this, many scammers are trying variations of the same scam. Instead of asking you to send them money for their ticket, they will instead send you scanned copies of a ticket to convince you they are genuine and are really coming to visit you. They do not ask for money to buy the ticket or even for visa expenses… leading you to believe they are real. However, there is usually a last minute glitch and they will request you to send them a large amount of money without which the trip will be impossible. These scammers know immigration rules and regulations well and might even cite some sort of visa requirement as their reason for requesting money. You might find their reasons actually check out and send them the money but in all likelihood, you have been scammed of your money.
3. Medical Emergency Scam
Another common scam one comes across in online dating is the medical emergency scam. Just when you think your online relationship is going really well, your online partner will be faced with some sort of medical emergency. Variations of these include them needing surgery they can’t afford, treatment for their son’s brain tumor or you may even get a call from someone pretending to be a doctor telling you your partner has been in a serious accident and you need to send money so they can start treatment. Sometimes, the scams are long and stretched out with the scammers attempting to get as much money out of you as possible by cooking up a variety of medical complications. Do not send money if you are in a similar situation because it is probably a scam. Again, most often these scammers will pretend to be a Western man but in reality they will be scammers based in Africa.
4. The Nigerian 419 Scams
This breed of scams has been around for a very long time and is known as the advance fee fraud. It has various names such as the Nigerian 419, Nigerian money offer, the Spanish prisoner etc. Similar to the Spanish prisoner scam where the scamster promises to share his fortunes with the victim in exchange for money to bribe the prison guards, the Nigerian 419 has fully come into its own thanks to the availability of email. A scam victim will usually receive an email making an offer of a large sum of money. The subject lines often read something similar to “From the desk of Mr [name]” or even “Your assistance is solicited”. While the stories may vary slightly, the general plot then talks of a person (usually a corrupt government employee) who has come across a large sum of money and needs your assistance to get the funds out of the country. The money could be cash, gold bullion, blood diamonds, gold dust, checks etc. The sums usually run up to millions of dollars with the victim being promised a huge chunk of it for their “help”. Like all scams, there is a last minute problem and you will be requested to send some money to ensure everything goes smoothly. Needless to say that is the last you will hear of your apparent fortune.
5. Fake Police Scam
It’s terrible being the victim of a scam and the first thing most scam victims do is contact the police in the hope they can actually catch the person who duped them. Sometimes scammers figure out you are onto them but instead of backing off, they take advantage of the situation by pretending to be the police. So say you have been duped by a Nigerian scammer and you contact the Nigerian police for help. You might get an email apparently from the Nigerian police telling you they have closed in on the scammer and need a payment from you before they can arrest him. This is definitely a scam because the police (no matter which country) will never request money to catch a criminal! Have a look at the email address – something like [email protected] obviously cannot be the official email address of the Nigerian Police.
6. Money Order Cash Requests
As opposed to some of the other scams, in this type of scam the fraudster takes their time to build a relationship with their victim. After a few months when the scammer is convinced they have formed a bond with their victim, they request the victim to cash some money orders and wire transfer the money to t hem (usually to Nigeria or Ghana). The scammer pretends to be someone from a Western country based in Nigeria for work and hence cannot cash the money orders. This seems harmless enough and most people don’t think twice about it. However, these money orders are often doctored so a $20 money order could have been washed and altered to show a sum of $2000. Once the victim cashes it and wires the money, the bank usually detects a forged money order and the victim is then liable for the entire amount while the scammer gets away scot-free and richer by a few thousand dollars.
7. Lottery Scam
Have you ever received an email or even an actual letter telling you you’ve won an obscenely large amount in a lottery you never entered? It’s definitely a scam so please do not send them any financial details because you’re just setting yourself up for a fraud or identity theft.
8. Phony Inheritance Claims
Similar to the lottery scam, these scams revolve around you receiving an inheritance that you previously had no knowledge of. There are a few variations of this type of fraud but the bottom line is they are all scams. Some will write to you telling you they are “estate locators” who have located a long lost inheritance for you. Others might be from someone in Africa claiming to have received a huge inheritance which they want to share with you if you can help them get the money out of the country. The scamsters will typically ask for your bank details so they can deposit the money into your account and once they have those details, they will rob you of your money.
9. Disaster Relief Scam
Every time there is a disaster like the tsunami, a tornado or an earthquake, millions of do-gooders want to do something to help the victims. Scammers take advantage of this by setting up scam charity institutions which rob the money that you wanted to send to the victims of the disaster. Scammers also attempt phishing by sending you donation requests via email where you can click on a link which then leads you to website designed to steal your passwords and other details.
Sometimes, scammers also take advantage of disaster situations by pretending to be a victim themselves. For example, an earthquake in the Philippines affects millions and the scammer sees this as an opportunity to ask you to help them during this difficult time. They will spin a story about how they have lost everything due to the disaster and tug at your heart strings. Yet, despite losing everything they seem to be an online dating site? Isn’t that a bit odd?
10. Business Investment Scam
Business investment is another popular lure scammers use to attract their potential victims. People want to use their savings for a worthwhile investment option. Solicitations for an investment scam can come via email, telephone or even in the mail. Offers include work-at-home jobs and other get-rich-quick schemes, gambling software, opportunities to buy “secret” shares and other too-good-to-be-true schemes. How do you know it’s a scam? While there is no foolproof rule, it is best to avoid investing in opportunities that have been presented to you by someone who came out of the blue. When investing your hard earned money, it is important to consult with a financial adviser about the best course of action.
Other Common Internet Scams
Online Classifieds Scam Online classified sites have turned out to be some of the most popular websites for a variety of purposes including dating, buying and selling products and even finding work. Unfortunately they have also become notorious for their scams so if you are using an online classifieds website you should watch out. There are all sorts of scams on these sites including scammers even trying to fool you with overpayment for an item you list for sale. As always, never divulge your financial details and if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.
In this type of scam, the fraudsters usually lure the web surfer to a website which seems real and legitimate but in fact is set up to steal personal details, passwords etc. This is often used for identity theft as well. The common guise for phishing these days seems to be to “confirm your identity”. You might receive emails pretending to be from your bank, Paypal, eBay asking you to click on a link so you can confirm your identity. But this link does not lead to the actual website but will instead redirect you to a fake website cloned to look like the original. This information in the hands of scammers puts you at risk of potentially losing thousands of dollars.
There are various types of scams on the internet which prey on a person’s good-hearted nature or vulnerability. It is therefore important to keep your guard up and think before divulging sensitive information online or to strangers. Now that you know what sort of scams could occur, if a scammer does happen to contact you, you will be able to spot them and report them immediately rather than wasting your time forming a relationship with them.