We respect your privacy. All email addresses you provide will be used just for sending this story. Just over a year ago, the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—had pleaded guilty to conning tens of millions of dollars from Americans via online dating sites. According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud. The FBI says it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, so the real numbers are probably higher.
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The scammers may just have lit upon the perfect crime: They sit at computers safely overseas, hunting for their prey on social networks, and they rarely get caught. Steve G. Jones is a victim too: His name and photos were stolen to create the fake identities used in romance scams. In the U. The odds of recovering that money, the bureau notes, are very low.
Many people use online dating and social networking sites to meet people. But scammers also use these sites — as well as chat rooms. They create fake profiles to find potential victims and attract attention. Scammers look for targets of any age and in any location, who they can convince to send money in the name of love. In some cases, online romance can be a fantasy, perpetrated by scam artists who are in it for the money rather than the relationship.