Internet Dating and Romance Scams

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Nigerian romance scams increase tenfold

CYBER criminals are intensifying their efforts to dupe people via social networking sites, police say.

“A classic example is romance sites,” said Detective Superintendent Brian Hay, head of the Queensland Police Service Fraud and Corporate Crime Group.

Online romance fraud from Nigeria has increased exponentially as earnings from other scams drop due to law enforcement efforts, he said.

Three years ago romance fraud accounted for 7 per cent of fraudulent activity sourced from Nigeria, now it’s 70 per cent.

“They just slipped across and started targeting romance people,” Det Supt Hay said.

“You just think of how many people are lonely, looking for a little bit of companionship.”

This isn’t the domain of the young and naive, but mainly with the huge number of people over aged 45 who have belatedly joined social networking sites.

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Dept Supt Hay said people looking for love tend to place a lot of information about themselves out there as they seek a compatible partner.

Based on those personal details, cyber criminals can then create a desirable character to match.

“I can create the perfect persona that you’re looking for because you’ve told me what you want,” Det Supt Hay said.

“It’s another way people are putting a bit too much information out there.”

Having created the desired attractive presence, the criminals take people into their confidence.

“The bizarre thing with the internet is they can fast-track a relationship a hundredfold.

“They can build up this relationship, this emotional bond, within days sometimes, whereas it would normally take months.

“All of sudden we’re talking about how much we love each other, and next thing you get a phone call or a text message from a hospital.

“The text will inform you there’s been an accident and only you can save them by sending $20,000 to $50,000 immediately for life-saving surgery.

“People part with it,” Det Supt Hay said.

In the past Australians have lost tens of thousands of dollars to scams preying on their personal vulnerabilities.

A female victim lost thousands of dollars and was left waiting at the airport after she sent money to a man she met on a web-based matchfinder.

In other scams the fraudsters ask for money once a relationship has begun to buy an airline ticket to visit the victim, seal a business deal, pay for medical expenses after an accident, or to help them after a robbery or because of corrupt officials.

In 2007 a South Australian sheep farmer who fell for such a scam was held hostage in Mali for 12 days and beaten with a machete by his captors, who demanded a $100,000 ransom.

Many other cases of romance scams are never reported by victims who are too embarrassed to contact authorities.

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September 30, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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