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“The victims are legitimately in love, legitimately care for this person. They’re thinking emotionally, not cognitively.” In some cases, victims have bought wedding dresses, engagement rings or made wedding plans with someone they’ve never met, Nofziger says.“The victims often don’t have doubts because scammers are so good at nurturing relationships,” says Todd Kossow, director of the Midwest region of the Federal Trade Commission, which collects scam reports.
Unfortunately, scammers post fake profiles and pictures on these same sites in hopes of finding deep pockets.
Don’t disclose your last name, your address, your place of work or other personal details until you meet your love interest in person. You also can copy portions of emails a love interest has sent and use an online search engine to see if the text appears elsewhere, because many scammers work off scripts, Nofziger says.
Also, copy his or her photo and do an image search to see if anyone else shows up with that photo, Nofziger says.
Experts said the scammers will operate in teams and may work off scripts. Army Criminal Investigation Command has issued warnings about scammers who claim to be military members.
Their correspondence may contain spelling and grammatical errors. Spokesman Christopher Grey says the Army receives several dozen calls each week about scammers who purport to be in the military.
If you’re already smitten, you may wire funds to the scammer – no questions asked.
“They are caught in the scammer’s web,” Nofziger says.
Other dangers: sextortion and worse If you’re all dreamy about your online love, you may be vulnerable to sextortion, a form of blackmail, Sluppick says.
Don’t let yourself be persuaded to take off your clothes and perform sex acts in front of your computer, as all of this is often being filmed by the scammer.
They work around the clock, and will keep you up all night communicating, she says. The romance scammers often will steal a military member’s photo from social media sites or press releases, Grey says, and may even use the military member’s name in their online profiles.
“They get the victim in a fog so she’s no longer thinking clearly.” It’s not unusual for scammers to claim they’re in the military. Even senior Department of Defense leaders have had their identities stolen by these fraudsters.
The scammer transfers stolen money into the account, then asks you to wire it out of the country, the FTC warns.