FBI: Romance scams in the air as Royal Wedding fever peaks

Love may spring eternal online but so do the in scammers, FBI warns

On the day so much love is in the air from across the pond, the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center is warning of an uptick in online romance scams.

According to the IC3, scammers use poetry, flowers, and other gifts to reel in victims, the entire time declaring their "undying love." These criminals also use stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, deaths in the family, injuries to themselves, or other hardships to keep their victims concerned and involved in their schemes. Scammers also ask victims to send money to help overcome a financial situation they claim to be experiencing. These are all lies intended  to take money from unsuspecting victims, the IC3 says.

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In another scheme, scammers ask victims to receive funds in the form of a cashier's check, money order, or wire transfer, claiming they are out of the country and unable to cash the instruments or receive the funds directly. The scammers ask victims to redirect the funds to them or to an associate to whom they purportedly owe money. In a similar scheme, scammers ask victims to reship packages instead of redirecting funds. In these examples, victims risk losing money and may incur other expenses, such as bank fees and penalties, and in some instances face prosecution, the IC3 says.

Scammers search chat rooms, dating sites, and social networking sites looking for victims. The principal group of victims is over 40 years old and divorced, widowed, elderly, or disabled, but all demographics are at risk, the IC3 stated.

IC3 complainants most often report Nigeria, Ghana, England, and Canada as the location of the many scammers.

To obtain more information on romance scams and other types of online schemes, visit Looks Too Good To Be True. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of this type of scam should promptly report it to the IC3's website at www.IC3.gov.

I recently reported on an Army Times newspaper story that detailed the growing trend of fraudsters stealing the identities of US Army soldiers from social network sites and then using that information to set up false profiles on Internet dating sites. The profiles are uses to dupe prospective dates out of their money.  But there are other consequences too.

From the Army Times: "The unwitting soldiers are sometimes victims when their loved ones discover the online profiles and believe their soldiers are looking to cheat. [Master Sgt. C.J. Grisham, who uses his blog, "A Soldier's Perspective," to expose scammers using the soldier dating con] said the scam is a new twist on the so-called Nigerian 419 advance fee scam, and its popularity is growing, fueled by soldiers' routine use of social networking sites and the Internet's penetration into third-world havens for con men. 'In the past year, the traffic on my site related to the scams I write about has tripled,' Grisham said. 'I'll get 30 to 40 comments a day and 20 e-mails a day asking me to look into whether or not they're being scammed.'"

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The problem is becoming more widespread too.  From a Huffington Post report: "Britain estimates nearly $100 million is lost in online dating scams involving stolen identities, run by fraudsters usually based in West Africa, annually. And according to a new report, assuming the identity of US military officers based overseas are, for many scammers, the perfect cover -- with photos usually readily available on the Internet, and brave, adventurous-sounding tales that seem to have enduring appeal when targeting single women.  'They're very clever at getting under your skin...seeing what makes you tick and working on human emotion,' said Bernard Herdan of Britain's National Fraud Authority. "

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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