Many successful relationships have blossomed via the web. Technology has enabled us to get to know others – to find similar likes and dislikes, and to understand shared dreams – more quickly. But we also know that the Internet is a place where criminals lurk, seeking opportunity.
Scammers play on emotion and romance is among the strongest of emotions. Scam artists use emotions to get victims to make quick decisions before they have time to think. They prey upon the desire we all have to help a loved one in need.
The relationship, or romance scam, starts simply. Two people meet on the Internet. The relationship progresses: they email, talk on the phone, and trade pictures. And, finally, they make plans to meet, and maybe even to get married. As the relationship gets stronger, things start to change. The man asks the woman to wire him money – he needs to purchase special laptop equipment to continue the long-distance relationship or maybe he needs money for his business that he will pay back. The first wire transfer may be small but the requests keep coming and growing—he needs airfare to come for a visit, etc. In a similar scenario, women are the perpetrators.
Western Union and Better Business Bureau warn consumers that when dating online, you should never send money to someone you have not met in person. Western Union specifically warns consumers not to send money to people they “have not met in person” because the Internet may lull consumers into believing they know someone even though they have never met face to face.
When dating online, there are red flags to watch for that may indicate you’re dealing with a scammer. Beware of anyone who:
- Asks to talk or chat on an outside email or messaging service, as this allows fraudsters to carry out scams without the dating site having a record of the encounter
- Claims to be from this country but is currently traveling, living or working abroad
- Asks you for money or credit card information
- Sends you emails containing questionable links to third-party websites
With random photographs taken from the Internet, scammers can create a false identity for themselves in order to lure in victims. Sometimes they instantly express feelings of love and other times they lead their victims along. No matter how much a relationship might seem like the real thing, you should be suspicious if someone asks you for money and credit card or other personal information.
Western Union provides a trusted and reliable way for people to send money to family members and friends but should not be used to send money to someone you have not met in person. What else can consumers do? Visit BBB Scam Stopper, a site launched by Western Union and BBB to help consumers reduce their chances of becoming a victim of a scam.