Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Week After Valentine's Day... Beware of Dating Scams

There are tons of dating scams out there. While a majority of dating sites are quite legit, people on it may not be. There are plenty of posers, scammers, and fraudsters out to get your money.

The situation is serious enough that the FBI, yes, *the* Federal Bureau of Investigations, issued a warning about online dating scams on Feb 15th, 2013. 

Normally, dating scams are variations of the sweetheart scam, which is a variation of the Nigerian scam.

In a typical "Nigerian Scam", you're asked to help the perp transfer money out of where-ever the money's being hidden... by paying for bribes and fees and whatnot. In return, you'll get a split of the funds when it succeeds.

In a sweetheart scam, you were befriended online by this "sweetheart", who, after gotten you hooked, started asking for financial assistance of some sort. I need a gift for so and so, then it becomes larger loans, then outright gifts and whatnot. Though in some cases, the sweetheart scam can be merged with a Nigerian scam. I have a friend who was almost taken by one of these: the "girl" claims to be an heiress in the UK and needs about 1000 pounds to pay a barrister so she can get her inheritance so she can move to the US to be with my friend.

As people have gotten more sophisticated, so have the scammers. Now scammers have elaborate online profiles (all fake), generators that automates creation of such profiles (populated with randomly obtained pictures), and automated scripts for someone to keep up multiple conversations / marks without mixing up the references.

One of the latest variation on dating scam is the honey pot trap, where the fake profile lured in unsuspecting participant, then the conversation was encouraged to be moved to some offsite chat server (which is secretly controlled by the scammer) and the chat will go x-rated. This is repeated a couple times, then the log of the chat will get posted somewhere and a link sent to the victim, claiming that unless the victim pay $$$ the link will be sent to all the search engines with the victim's real name attached as keywords, essentially holding these bits of "indiscretion" as hostage and demand for ransom. Of if the victim's really married, it can be posted to a "cheaters" website and publicly shamed, unless the victim pay up.

Older woman are vulnerable to online dating scams. Some scammers specialize in creating fake "returning soldier" profiles, usually based on social network profile of real soldiers.

If you think you have been victimized by online dating scam, make an online report:

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