Dating fraud, also known as romance fraud, is a well-known and common scam done over the Internet to unsuspected people who were just looking for a connection with someone via a long-term relationship. A variety of fraudulent activity is associated with dating fraud, with the most common being the scammer forming a romantic relationship with someone they met on the internet, and ultimately asking for money through various tactics. This scam has also received the name "sweetheart swindle."
The scammer typically starts by creating a profile on a popular dating website, with a fake picture and personal information. Sometimes they will wait for another person to respond to their ad, or they will make the first contact. In the beginning, they are merely gaining the trust of the other person in order to appear legit such as sharing common interests, talking about their life at home, occupation, or childhoods. Over time, the victim falls for the scammer due to these very tactics and does not realize what has happened until it is too late.
Meanwhile, the scammer is more than likely doing the dating scam to several people at one time; each one with the same story that will cause the victim to trust him or her. As the relationship grows and the victim beginning to trust the scammer, they will begin speaking of financial troubles, or the desire to visit him but are unable to afford the plane ticket. The victim may send small amounts of money over a long period of time, or a large lump sum for a larger purchase such as a plane ticket. Instead, the scammer pockets the money and eventually cuts off all communication. The victim has not only lost their money but also goes through emotional battles over the entire situation as well.
The dating scam may also be another way for a scammer to phish the person for personal information in order to steal their money such as their name, address, bank account information and credit card numbers. Variations on the dating scam include the scammer informing that they live in another country and need the victim's help in cashing a check or money order, both of with are counterfeit, and then wiring them the cash.
There are a number of warning signs that may indicate dating fraud such as receiving "I love you" messages or emails almost immediately, claiming to be a person of high importance, an exchange of a business deal, asking for money and someone who has one or two photos on the dating websites but refuses to send more photos. To detect a romance scam, stick to your gut feeling when communicating with anyone on the internet and refrain from sending money, even if they seem truthful. Do your research by looking for other victims of dating scams and seeing the wording of their messages and emails; they may appear to be nearly identical to yours.