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Internet Dating and Romance
 

United States citizens should be alert to attempts at fraud by persons claiming to live outside of the U.S., professing friendship, romantic interest, and /or marriage intentions over the Internet.

Typically, once a connection is made, the correspondent asks the U.S. citizen to send money or credit card information for living expenses, travel expenses, or "visa costs". Sometimes, the correspondent notifies the American citizen that a close family member, usually the mother, is in desperate need of surgery and begins to request monetary assistance. Scams have even advanced to the point where the U.S. citizen is informed of a serious or fatal accident to the correspondent and the “family” asks for money to cover hospital or funeral costs. Several citizens have reported losing thousands of dollars through such scams.

The anonymity of the Internet means that the U.S. citizen cannot be sure of the real name, age, marital status, nationality, or even gender of the correspondent. In every case reported to the embassy, the correspondent turned out to be a fictitious persona created only to lure the U.S. citizen into sending money.

These scammers have created male as well as female characters and entice same sex correspondents as well as those of the opposite sex. A disturbing recent twist are scammers who have connected to U.S. citizens through chat rooms for HIV positive individuals, posed as HIV positive individuals themselves, and asked for money for treatment or travel to the United States.

Correspondents who quickly move to professions of romantic interest or discussion of intimate matters are likely inventions of scammers. A request for funds almost always marks a fraudulent correspondent. U.S. citizens are cautioned against sending any money to persons they have not actually met.

Romance scams involve one or more – sometimes all – of the key signs below:

  • The scammer and the victim meet online – often through Internet dating or employment sites.
  • The scammer asks for money to get out of a bad situation or to provide a service.
  • Photographs that the scammer sends of “him/herself” show a very attractive person. The photo appears to have been taken at a professional modeling agency or photographic studio.
  • The scammer has incredibly bad luck-- often getting into car crashes, arrested, mugged, beaten, or hospitalized -- usually all within the course of a couple of months. They often claim that their key family members (parents and siblings) are dead. Sometimes, the scammer claims to have an accompanying child overseas who is very sick or has been in an accident.
  • The scammer claims to be a native-born American citizen, but uses poor grammar indicative of a non-native English speaker. Sometimes the scammer will use eloquent romantic language that is plagiarized from the Internet.

For additional information on romance scams, please click on thes links:

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