You meet someone special on a dating website. Soon he wants to move off the dating site to e-mail or phone calls. He tells you he loves you, but he lives far away — maybe for business, or because he’s in the military. Then he asks for money. He might say it’s for a plane ticket to visit you. Or emergency surgery. Or some other urgent reason.
Finding love online can be challenging. It can be very difficult to figure out if you are meeting the person of your dreams, or if it is someone who is looking to scam you and wants to pick your pockets. Below, please find some red flags as well as tips to help you decide if you are dating a scammer.
Scammers, both male and female, make fake dating profiles, sometimes using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. They may cultivate a relationship for several months, gaining their victims’ trust — some even create fake wedding plans — before asking for money. But regardless of the approach of the scam, if the goal is your money, eventually they will ask you for it, and then disappear.
Romance scams, a serious cybercrime, affect American and Hungarian citizens, as well. Victims are typically single or widowed women above the age of 50. Men can be targets as well.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is working to raise awareness about online romance scams, also called confidence fraud. In this type of fraud, scammers take advantage of people looking for romantic partners on dating websites, apps, or social media by obtaining access to their financial or personal identifying information. The FBI advises everyone who may be romantically involved with a person online to be cautious and wary of romance scams.
The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command (CID) is also warning anyone who is involved in online dating to proceed with caution when corresponding with persons claiming to be U.S. Soldiers currently serving in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
- Be very suspicious of someone you have never met and who profess their love almost immediately, refers to you as “my love,” “my darling”, or any other affectionate term almost immediately, telling you they cannot wait to be with you.
- Be very suspicious of someone saying they are on a Peace Keeping Mission, whose parents/wife are deceased, child is being cared for by a nanny or other guardian, and who is looking for an honest woman.
- Be very suspicious of someone telling you they cannot talk on the phone or via webcam due to security reasons, or telling you they are sending you something (money, jewelry) through a diplomat.
- Be very suspicious if you never get to actually speak with the person on the phone or are told you cannot write or receive letters in the mail. Servicemen and women serving overseas will often have an APO or FPO mailing address. Internet or not, service members always appreciate a letter in the mail.
- Be very suspicious of someone who claim to be a U.S. Army Soldier; however, their English grammar and spelling do not match that of someone born and raised in the United States, and writes with common language errors in the emails.
- Be very suspicious if you are asked to send money or ship property to a third party or company. Often times the company exists, but has no idea or is not a part of the scam.
- Be very suspicious if the person you are corresponding with wants you to mail anything to an African country.
- DO NOT SEND MONEY! Be extremely suspicious if you are asked for money for transportation costs, communication fees, or marriage processing and medical fees via Western Union. In the event you do lose money, be warned that your chances of getting it back are almost nil.
- Many of the negative claims made about the military and the supposed lack of support and services provided to troops overseas are far from reality – check the facts.
Know the facts
- Soldiers and their loved ones are not charged money so that the Soldier can go on leave.
- No one is required to request leave on behalf of a Soldier.
- A general officer will not correspond with you on behalf of a Soldier planning to take leave.
- A general officer will not be a member of an internet dating site.
- Soldiers are not charged money or taxes to secure communications or leave.
- Soldiers do not need permission to get married.
- Soldiers do not have to pay for early retirement.
- Soldiers have medical insurance for themselves and their immediate family members (spouse and/or children), which pays for their medical costs when treated at health care facilities worldwide – family and friends do not need to pay their medical expenses.
- Military aircraft are not used to transport Privately Owned Vehicles.
- Army financial offices are not used to help Soldiers buy or sell items of any kind.
- Soldiers deployed to combat zones do not need to solicit money from the public to feed or house their troops.
- Deployed Soldiers do not find large sums of money and do not need your help to get that money out of the country.
See examples of fake documents used by scammers.
The following tips may be helpful to consider if you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the same or similar material has been used elsewhere.
- Go slow and ask a lot of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why they can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t personally know.
If you believe you are a victim of a romance scam:
- File a complaint online at the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3);
- If the scammer falsely claims to be a U.S. Government employee (including U.S. military), contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC);
- Please understand the U.S. Embassy in Budapest is not authorized to identify American citizens you may have met online.
“We recognize that it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, but we ask for victims to come forward so the FBI can ensure that these online imposters are brought to justice.” – Special Agent in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division.
Information in this article is based on and uses material from the following resources:
FBI Cautions Public to be Wary of Online Romance Scams – Federal Bureau of Investigation
Types of Imposter Scams – Federal Trade Commission
Online Dating Scams – Federal Trade Commission
International Finance Scams – Travel.State.Gov – U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE — BUREAU OF CONSULAR AFFAIRS
Online Romance Scam Information – U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command
Romance Scams – U.S. Embassy Ghana