Criminals who perpetrate online dating and romance scams use emotional appeals to quickly gain their victims’ trust and then, just as quickly, exploit it.This leaves many victims not only embarrassed but also in financial distress.
Scammers may then ask their victims to leave the dating site and use personal email or instant messaging (IM).
Con artists may express their “love” quickly and effusively, find similarities with the victim, and claim the online match was destiny.
(A second report later this month is supposed to offer more detail.) The Federal Trade Commission recently revealed that romance scam victims reported losing $143 million across more than 21,000 scams in 2018, which is a huge jump from 2015 when it saw $33 million reported losses.
Most people didn’t spend nearly as much as “Laura’s” would-be partner from Texas; the median loss is $2,600, though it rises to $10,000 among people aged 70 and older.
In one case study, a Texas man spent more than $50,000 during a fake relationship with “Laura Cahill,” supposedly an American model living in Paris.
That included ,000 allegedly stolen from his stepfather.
As the FTC explains, it’s technically simple to avoid losing money to romance scammers: you can run a reverse image search on profile photos to detect fakes, look for inconsistencies in your paramour’s stories, and just avoid sending money to anybody you haven’t met.
Agari notes some telling details in the Scarlet Widow group’s messages, for instance, like “Laura” stating that “I use facial cleansers at times” and “I generally don’t smell” in her introduction.
As the number of people looking to meet new people online grows, so does the opportunity for fraud.
Some scam artists use bogus profiles to con the people they meet out of hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Agari says it’s identified at least three people associated with Scarlet Widow.