How to Avoid Falling Prey to Online Dating Romance Scams

Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on online dating romance scams. At the end of this article you will find links to part 1 and part 2 of the series.

Romance scams are the most successful type of all online scams. The reason is because romance scammers have mastered the art of using human nature against the victims. Human nature tells us that when you love someone, you can trust them. Human nature tells us to treat other people the way we want to be treated. Human nature tells us that when someone is in trouble, we should help. Realizing this, scammers have created the ultimate scam that has claimed millions of victims worldwide who have lost hundreds of millions of dollars. Why the success? Because scammers know that “love is blind”.

Being educated about how romance scams work definitely helps in being able to register red flags when you unsuspectedly start communicating with a scammer. What you do with those red flags will determine on whether the scam succeeds or not. Some people allow the scam to play out longer than they should because they enjoy the attention and the idea of being “in love” with the persona created for the scam.  The further you allow yourself to go without stopping it, the harder it is to “get out”. At the first sign of a red flag, immediately cease all communication with the person and report them as a suspected scammer to the online dating service you are using.

Below is a list of romance scam red flags. Keep in mind that a person exhibiting just one or two of these signs is possibly a scammer.

Romance Scam Red Flags (remember, these vary so use common sense too)

– The person claims to be in the military/army/navy or a traveling businessperson.

– The person wants to start communicating via email (versus through the online dating service) fairly quickly.

– The person has an interesting “back story” that they share with you in the first couple of emails.

– The person will profess their love for you even though you have never met.

– The person has bad grammar in their emails to you.

– The person has bad sentence structure (Forget spaces after period.For example, like I just showed you).

– The person has an accent, on the phone, that doesn’t sound right when compared to the photo or where they said they are from.

– The person claims to live in the same country as you (sometimes the same state), but is out on business.

– The person’s profile “disappears” from the online dating service. Once scammers have been detected by a service, their profile is removed. That’s why they act quickly to get you to communicate via email.

– The person… (see Scam Variations below).

Romance Scam Variations
There are many variations of the romance scams, which increases the importance of always keeping your guard up and being alert. Ultimately, all romance scams have one thing in common – the scammer will, at some point, ask you for money. Below is a list of known variations of the romance scam. Remember, just because it’s not on this list doesn’t make it a scam.

– Person is out of country on business.

– Person has had really bad luck that they openly share (death in family, loss of job, going through really tough time) to gain instant pity.

– Person appeals to your Christian instincts for help by professing to be godly himself/herself.

– Person needs to transfer money through your bank account.

– Person needs you to deposit money orders (or checks) and wire them money.

– Person needs money from you for an “emergency”. Such emergencies may include (but are not limited to) being robbed, kidnapped, detained at airport, charged an unexpected “fee”, etc.

– Person has “laptop” or “phone” stolen and needs to send them a replacement (or money to replace it).

– Person is rich then, while travelling, gets “kidnapped” in Nigeria and held for ransom.

– Person wants to build project in/near your area/state/province and needs to channel money through you for this to happen. As transfers “take place” you are contacted to pay “transfer fees” by banks you don’t know are fake.

– Person really wants to see you but needs money for the plane trip.

– Person really wants to see you in person, but something bad happens as they are boarding (or transferring in another city) causing them to be “detained” and you to have to pay a fee for their release. Most scammers like to use the detained story during a transfer as it places the person “alone” and “not knowing anyone” in a “strange city” and all they want to do is finish the trip to get to you. You are their only hope.

– Person or “son” or “daughter” had been in a car crash.

– Person or “son” or “daughter” has been diagnosed with cancer and needs treatment.

The Scam Beyond the Scam
If you’ve given money to a scammer, figure it out, then call them out on it, believe it or not the scam sometimes doesn’t end there! There are several ways the scammer may respond:

– The scammer admits to the scam, but says that he/she truly fell in love with you during the scam and they truly want to be with you. Once they get you sucked back in, they are more careful about how and when to ask you for money – but ultimately they will.

– The scammer threatens to send any photos and emails you exchanged to people that you work with. Any personal information you shared in email or on the phone they will use against you to try and bribe you out of more money. They will demand a “payoff” to not send the info. The thing is that even if you pay they will only continue to demand more.

– By telling you to “go ahead and contact the authorities” (if you threaten it). He tells you only local authorities have jurisdiction so you’re out of luck. Why would the scammer say this? Because he/she wants you to do a search for the police in their area because many of the police Websites are fake and used to scam you out of even more money! Never contact overseas “authorities”. Hand the case over to your local or federal authorities to investigate.

The Singapore Incident
Just over a year ago, the Singapore TV show CrimeWatch did a very in-depth story and recreation of a woman in Singapore who fell victim to a romance scam. This is an excellent program that really shows how some of these scams develop over time. Keep two things in mind with this story:

1) The guy communicated for an entire year before executing the scam.

2) The woman kept giving more money with the belief that it was the only way she could get her money back (sort-of like a gambler’s syndrome).


It’s important to keep in mind the three things romance scams virtually always have in common. First, the person will try to rush you off a dating service to communicate via email. Second, the person will have excuses for not meeting in person. Third, at some point the person will ask you for money or products or to do some elaborate transfer. Remember, romance scammers will go to great lengths to scam you even if it means talking on the phone, sending you flowers, or sending you gifts.

The second you suspect you may be communicating with a scammer, you need to cease all communications. Ignore all emails and block any phone calls from the scammer. Don’t give them any avenue or means to contact you. They want you to continue engaging them because they know as long as they can keep you engaged, there is still a chance they can get money out of you. If you have to, change your email address, phone number, etc. Be sure to alert the online dating service about the scammer (including a link to their profile).

If you do get scammed, be sure to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3). Be sure to share your experience below in our Comments section as well.

Part 1: How Romance Scams Work
Part 2: Romance Scam Victims


  1. Betty on January 17, 2013 at 12:52 pm

    I exchanged phone numbers with a guy and we communicated for about two weeks (he immediately started professing his love for me and wanting to get married within 1 year ..stating he was 55 years old and time was passing him by.. stated he was financially secured and only had one more international trip to make to purchase some gem stones for his business).

    He stated he would buy me a new home if I didn’t want to move to the Santa Clara, California area. Each email and phone call he would tell me that he was falling in love with me. He stated he didn’t like sending texts…He stated he was going to Malaysia to purchase gem stones. He had inherited the business from his father.

    He had a heavy accent and had sent an additional photo of himself with his dog. He emailed me a copy of his flight itinerary… showing his stop over in LAX for eight hours before flying out to Hong Kong and then on to Malaysia. He called me the morning of his flight… I suggested that if he had given me more notice, I could have meet him at LAX so we could talk during his eight hour layover. I noticed the flight itinerary didn’t give the year of his flight… it only showed the month, date & time.. no year… I Googled the travel agent and the number to reach them was international.. no local US number…

    I began to get concerned at that time…

    Well… moving on to the good part… he called me to say he had arrived safely in Malaysia and would be there for eleven days and we would meet when he returned via LAX… lovely conversations… we were going to walk on the beach have wine to celebrate the New Year… He was going to book reservations at the Mariott Hotel. I had told him I would meet him at the hotel lobby, but I wasn’t leaving home till he called and confirmed his arrival at the hotel. I was actually going to wait till I could be transferred to his room if I called the hotel.

    Four days later I received a call from him at 9pm (pst). He stated he had just been robbed. That his briefcase containing $30k, gemstones and credit cards was stolen… Stated as he was exiting the cab the driver just immediately drove off without him having the opportunity to get his briefcase. The “bells” immediately start sounding… I told him that if he had been during these transactions for years (so stated in prior conversations) how could he have made such a terrible mistake? He also stated he only had $50 and had reported the theft to the local police. I told him sorry to hear of his misfortunion, told him I felt it was a scam and our prior conversations were “FAKED” and I wish him the best..

    I hung up the phone.

    The next day I received a email from him.. He was angry that I had caught on to his “SCAM”! He stated how could I accused him of being dishonest and that he would never trust a woman again? Told me he wish me the best…

    • Joe Tracy on January 17, 2013 at 4:35 pm

      Betty, great job at recognizing him as a scammer before you gave him any money. At that point, many people feel “invested” and so much want to believe what the person is saying that they convince themselves that the situation is true. Your story is a good indication to others that if someone you have never met suddenly needs money from you due to an “emergency”, it is a scam. Thank you for sharing your story. I hope others will share their experiences too.


      Joe Tracy, Publisher
      Online Dating Magazine

      • Katherine on February 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

        I had one too. And this guy was good.
        I met him on a dating site and it was all cute and innocent but then t started to get very involved conversations for about 3 weeks. I kept my conversations because it makes for great fiction. I am a writer. After the second week, i knew I was being scammed. No one falls in love through the internet. It felt awful because he used a child, a child’s picture and fake pictures for himself too (seem like a decent person and said he was a widower). Then came the boom. The need for financial assistance. I strung him along for awhile and told him i had to wait for the money from an old boss and sister. Well, he could wait for it, he said. I pretended to have a daughter who advised me not to trust this person. That was genius. He argued with her and me via email about his honorable intentions. I reported him to that dating site and I don’t expect to hear from him. He called me and I played along to get him off my track. My kid was like, who are you saying that to? I said, oh no one.

        I dont know if his fake person has any idea they are being used. it’s kinda really sad. I’m glad I didn’t get taken but I know many are. He does have my address because I thought he was going to send me a card. So I will be careful. How do you avoid it? Watch for red flags. Be strong. Be aware. That’s all I can say.

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