NBCPhiladelphia.com - Harry Hairston
It happens more than you think -- a con man preys on a woman trying to find love online. Find out the warning signs.
He wouldn’t give us his full name because he says, “a lot of scammers would like to see me dead.”
Online dating scammers that is. He says his name is Wayne and he runs a website designed to protect you from on line Romeos who are trying to rip you off.
Before you go looking for love online make sure you know what your up against.
The NBC10 Investigators spoke with Wayne who runs Romancescam.com and also with Jody Buehl, who works on Romancescams.org. Both warn romance seekers to be suspicious and to research everything about anyone who contacts you online for dating.
Don't be afraid to search for information about them on Google or other popular search engines.
Experts say these groups can be so organized that they hang out in Internet cafes searching for people to rip off. They have some people who will make first contact with a potential target and often use stolen pictures to lure their prey.
That's why one clue you should look for is to pay attention to misspelled words or improper grammar, Buehl said. Some of these scammers are not as familiar with English syntax.
Wayne says even the dating rip-off artists who aren’t professionals are just plain persistent. They can pick up on your interests and make themselves seem like your dream date.
For example, if they read that you're interested in gardening, they'll research and read up on gardening and slip it into their e-mails to pique your interest. It's all part of their "grooming" potential victims.
Experts say these rip-off Romeos sometimes take months to romance their victims creating a false sense of security before finally asking for money or naked pictures.
Estimates of the number of victims on online dating fraud vary because experts say it's way underreported. Why?
Many people are too embarrassed to admit they’ve been scammed and a lot don’t even know they’ve been ripped off! Most of the time the victims are left with the feeling that it “just didn’t work out.”
Well maybe it didn’t for them but it did for the scammer.
One way to check out any potential partners is to meet them in person early on in a public place. Listen to your gut if you feel that anything is not exactly right. Don't dismiss those feelings -- they're probably on target.
Also be suspicious of pictures that look like they're from a studio. And, be skeptical of a significantly younger suitor or someone from a faraway place.
So before you think you found the perfect mate on the net, make sure experiences of online dating victims don’t match yours. In fact, if you go to either of these websites, you can check out their forums where other people post their experiences with online dating.
Whether it’s a group of scammers or just one individual con artist looking to turn your life upside down you can protect yourself by visiting different websites that help protect you.