Dear Miss Deborah,
Three months ago, I started chatting with a guy I met online, and we really hit it off - we have so much in common! He looks quite handsome in the photos he sent. He sent me flowers and a sweet teddy bear. Isn’t that romantic? We haven’t met yet, because he is actually supervising a construction project in an African country, but we will when he gets back. I can’t wait.
Yesterday, I got a message from him explaining how he is unable to cash his checks and asking if I could wire him money so he could come home. I'm starting to like him more each day, and I want to meet him. What should I do? Risk rejection or send him the money?
Single and looking again
Dear Single and looking again,
Somewhere deep inside, your wee small voice warned you before you lost more than your heart. I’m glad you listened. Modern-day singles often turn to online dating sites to find their soul mate, and according to the marketing materials, lots of relationships and even marriages are being made through these sites. Unfortunately, mixed among your potential Prince Charmings are scammers who target the lovelorn with well-played deceptions. After establishing a relationship, the smooth-talking scammer plays on emotional triggers to get the victim to provide money, gifts or personal details.
These “sweetheart” scams are known as Nigerian scams, and can take months or even a year to develop. The Secret Service and other U.S. agencies, as well as foreign authorities, have issued warnings on the scams, also known as "419" or "advance-fee" frauds. In one version, the victim is tricked into sending money to the African country using some irreversible method like a wire transfer. In another variation, the scammer asks their victim to "re-ship" items to locations in Nigeria, essentially acting as the “middle-man.” The scammer purchases items from the victim’s home country, with stolen credit cards, and asks the victim to forward them on, because they have trouble getting them delivered out of the country.
Match.com says in a statement about dating scams, “…we have over 100 fraud team agents who manually review every profile before it’s allowed on the site. But a few of these sophisticated criminals still slip through all of our checks…”
To avoid being ripped off and left broken-hearted, remember a few things:
- Keep all communication within the dating site, since they often monitor for fraud
- Do not send or wire money to anyone you have not met face-to-face
- Keep your personal information, like credit card number, PIN, and social Security number to yourself
As you have experienced, you never know a person just from writing to him online. The next time you find someone you are interested in, meet him in person sooner rather than later. See if there’s any chemistry. Risk rejection and get it over with. It's up to you to find out if he's real or not.