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Warning Issued for Online Dating Scams

( - February 15, 2006) The UK's Office of Fair Trading has issued the following warning concerning online dating scams about finding love overseas:

Online Dating Scam Warning

What is an online dating scam?
An online dating scam is when a scammer, male or female, creates a false personal profile and makes contact with you via an online dating agency or even a specialised chat room. The scammer says that they are seeking romance or a soul mate but are really out to steal not only your heart but your cash too.

Scammers can sign up to online dating agencies or chat rooms just like anyone else. Many online dating sites allow anyone to join for free, and they usually do not screen their members. Scammers take advantage of the anonymity of the internet to create the profile of your perfect match and make any number of promises to attract you and cause you to let your defences down.

How do I know it is a scam?
The scammer will ask for your money! This will not happen immediately - however, before long the scammer will ask for financial help for any number of reasons. Almost always, they will ask you to send money using an untraceable source such as a telegraphic money transfer. Some of the most common reasons they give for why they need your help include:

- I want to meet you but I don't have enough money to travel to see you

- I have been robbed and beaten, I require urgent surgery or treatment for a serious illness or me or my family member has been a victim of a serious or fatal accident and you are the only person who can help.

- I am stranded abroad and I don't have money for travel or visa costs.

Other signs are:

- your new date looks like a model - this is probably because the scammer has used a stolen or a magazine picture.

- your new date only gives you a post office address and/or a phone number which he or she never answers and which does not have voicemail.

- your date talks a lot about herself or himself and does not answer your questions - probably because they are sending standard emails to hundreds of people.

What can I do to protect myself from online dating scams?

» Only use a reputable online dating or chat service and follow the basic safety tips for online dating
be sceptical and ask yourself simple questions like, 'why am I the only person who can help them but I have just met them?'

» Test your date - ask them lots of questions, try to phone them or post them something or possibly suggest meeting them. If all attempts fail, you are probably dealing with a scammer.

What can I do if I have already lost money?
If you have already sent money there is little chance of you ever recovering it from them. However, be sure to report the scam to the dating service or chat room site where you met the person.


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