As Valentines Day approaches, many people will be looking to the Internet to find romance. Increasingly, they will have to wade through scores of scammers to find Mr. or Ms. Right.
David, of Loveland, Colorado, says he fell for a romance scam in December 2005, when he thought he was helping a young Russian woman stranded in a foreign country.
"Since then I have been approached on every dating site I have joined by supposed women who are stranded in Nigeria or Ghana," David told ConsumerAffairs.com. "When the dating sites are notified they are scammers they do nothing about it."
David's plight, it turns out, is not all that unusual. Romance scams have become so common there is even an active Yahoo users group dedicated to the subject. The site offers a place for victims and potential victims to compare notes. It also tells those entering a Web-based romance how to tell if they're being scammed.
"Are you wondering if the person that you are talking to is too good to be true?" the site asks. "Are there things that you are being told that just don't make sense? Did the person find you on a singles site and start professing their love for you in a short time? Did they tell you that they were currently working in a foreign country, mainly Nigeria? Are they telling you that they are having trouble cashing their paychecks?"
If so, it's a mortal lock you're being played. What comes next is usually an "embarrassed" request for a small loan, just to help them get out of a jam. Pretty soon, the embarrassment disappears and the loan requests get larger.
If you're not careful, a broken heart, and a broken bank account, could be just a mouse click away.