Online Relationship Scams – Protect Yourself

Scammers make hundreds of millions of dollars a year through online relationship scams.

Scammers make hundreds of millions of dollars a year through online relationship scams.

Searching for romance over the Internet has become more and more popular over the years.  Online dating is nearly a billion dollar industry and scammers are cashing in on the trend, taking advantage of unsuspecting men and women.

Every day, scammers target hundreds of online daters, and many have fallen prey to scams that cost online daters, on average, of more than $3,000 per person. They do it by posing as men or women overseas and send you a note through an online dating service. They pretend to be interested in you and provide their “email address” so that you can continue communicating offline.

SEE ALSO: Online Dating Romance Scams – How They Work

Scammers use email to try and build an online relationship with you and they eventually profess their love. Some will even host fake Webcam sessions or even call you on the phone.  Once they sense you are falling in love with their persona, the scam kicks into high gear. An “emergency” (mother hospitalized, surgery needed) suddenly arises and they ask for money. Or they say they want to meet you, but need money to apply for a VISA to come see you. Little does the victim realize that he or she is talking to a professional con artist. And that con artist may not even be the same gender as the person they are portraying! The scams can get quite complex, including men hiring a girl to call you (or vice versa) and pose as your online love interest.

You can avoid being a victim of online relationship scams by taking note of these warning signs:

Being Asked for Money
This is the most telltale sign of a scam.  No matter what you think or what other people might say, it just isn’t a normal behavior to ask for money if you’ve never met someone in person.  Scammers are quite creative – they will ask you to help with airfare so they can come and visit, cash a check, help out with an emergency for you to send a money order and so on. Some will ask for money fairly quick and others will show patience while trying to build a relationship with you, getting you to fall for the imaginary person in the profile they set up.

Initiating First Contact
Scammers virtually always are the first to initiate contact with you. If you get an email (or wink) from someone overseas, it’s best not to respond.

Wanting to Communicate via Email
An online scammer will want to take your communications to email as soon as possible because they know their profile may soon be deleted when an online dating service notices their pattern of emailing people. So many times in the very first or second email they will give you an email address and ask you to email them.

Fake Pictures
Some scammers will cut or scan photos from magazines. Others will steal them right off Facebook or other online dating profiles. Trust your instincts.  If you feel the photo is suspicious, chances are it’s probably a fake. Photos chosen are usually of an attractive man or woman. Sometimes they will find photos of someone from the military and post those to help explain why they are “out of the country.” Be alert and trust your gut if it tells you somethings not right.

Unwillingness to Share Information
The person you are talking to showers you with attention and he/she seems to be overly interested in everything about you, yet doesn’t share a lot of information about themselves.  If they are avoiding your questions like a seasoned politician, then run..

Messages Vary
If you are exchanging emails with someone overseas (a bad idea to begin with), watch out for inconsistencies like a variation in the style of the email, language differences, repetitive statements, etc.. The scammer who initiated the communication with you may not always be the same one that carries it through. If something doesn’t seem right about the emails you are receiving, then it’s not right.

Besides looking out for red flags you can take other measures to further protect yourself:

1) Be the one always initiating communication via online dating services.

2) Guard your privacy.

3) Communicate with people locally, not overseas.

4) Trust your gut instinct from the start.

5) Never reply to communications from someone who sends you a note and immediately includes their email address for you to continue the communication.

Share these valuable tips with others:

Many people have fallen prey to online relationship scams. In one case, two men showed up at the same airport to meet a girl from overseas that they had sent money to for her “flight.” Both were left holding flowers at the airport staring at each other. They had apparently been duped by the same scammer.

While it is true that there are many people who find life partners over the Internet, it is best to always be on your guard when using online dating services. Don’t get scammed!

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2007 and updated in 2015)

Author: Joe Tracy

Joe Tracy is the publisher and founder of Online Dating Magazine, which launched in July 2003 and has been providing original dating advice, tips, articles, reviews, and videos to readers ever since.

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  1. I personally have been partaking in an online friendship. Nothing more, but I see myself growing more and more attached. I’ve read the following advice above and find it very interesting. The only thing I question my friendship is because my family disagrees with any form of long distant or online relationship. We are very conservative.

    Viewing the warning signs though. My friend has not shown any signs of the above. That does not mean I will not be cautious. Instead of him asking for me to come to his country to meet him, instead he has asked that he come here to America with his mother to gain my family’s approval. He has never brought up money in any of our conversations. And his chats seem quite accurate. He loves talking about his life and family. And is consistent and willing to answer all my questions. They do not change.

    I even tend to throw him curve balls sometimes. A con artist would have forgotten and slipped. He has given me his address to be able to write letters to each other. And yes I have google earthed it, lol It seems really accurate and the home resembles the one in his photos. I had a connection with his so called neighbor too. That was yet again accurate. He did not come to know of this till recently. But there is always the possibility of being scammed and I keep that in mind. I do not wish for this to be because I truly am enjoying the company of this friend. I’m am even content with it becoming nothing more than this. Our religions are different and that plays a huge role in my family. We are claimed to share the same God. But I do not judge by religion but by character. I would not form a relationship with this person. But because I do see myself growing closer and slightly attached. I would appreciate any words of advice.

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    • Ms. Angela, I say don’t turn down the opportunity. I am looking myself for an online relationship and in regular life, too. I, like you come from a very religious family where everything is very set (stereotypes and all) with everything around me covered in red tape. Perhaps religion wise people are different, as long as there’s a spark I see no harm in it. If he’s not some pedophile, rapist, or other similar person than you should give him a go. He’s paying for his own trip with his mother so you don’t have to worry about the money aspect, and I’m sure you two have already developed a good relationship online.You never know what will happen, life is a wonderful surprise. (Wish me luck in my endeavors as well! I am contemplating starting at least a friendly relationship online.)

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    • Angela, I don’t know how long you have been talking to this man but even if both of you have been talking for months on a daily basis, it doesn’t mean anything. I personally experienced that before. They are professional scammers, they have stories made up right before you started dating. They are ‘wonderful’ and very ‘understanding’ people. All the stories vary but ultimately, the financial issue will be brought up, either before or after meeting. Check on this website for yourself. for more information. Good luck.

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  2. Ive been being scammed by a guy or chick. I don’t know which, but i do know that they put money in my account out of someone else’s and i had my account frozen.

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  3. Ok, what if the person your talking to has like, a sister or a brother that contacts you on your facebook because, they ( sis or bro) heard of you from the girl or boy your talking to facebook or yahoo whatever? Is that a good sing of a legit deal? You know what I’m saying? Could that make it good to go?

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    • Lilman66,

      Keep in mind that scammers will go through great lengths to trick you. That may include setting up fake Facebook accounts and fake family/friends. Just be on guard and remember that if they ever ask for money, it’s a scam. Don’t let your heart tell you otherwise.


      Joe Tracy, Publisher
      Online Dating Magazine

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    • No. See, your woman will find out you are cheating again and she is going to cheat on you. Remember… everyone Lies.

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