Monday, February 20, 2012

How to Avoid a Broken (Online) Heart

Here are some red flags that might indicate an online "romance" may be nothing more than an attempt to steal your money:

• You've never met face to face with your online suitor.

• They profess love immediately, often within 24 to 48 hours. They claim fate or God brought you together.

• They quickly use terms of endearment: "sweetie," "hon," "baby, " etc. (they can't remember your real name)

• On a social networking or dating site, their profile photo disappears soon after making contact and they prefer chatting by instant messaging. If they chat with you by webcam, theirs never seems to work.

• Their emails use bad grammar, poor spelling and the pronoun "i" instead of "I." They often misspell the name of their supposed hometown and don't know any local landmarks.

• They misunderstand typical American slang, such as "night owl" or "poker face."

• They quickly send small gifts (teddy bears, chocolate, flowers), often purchased with stolen credit cards or unwittingly by other victims being scammed.

• When asked a question they can't answer, they go offline to look up a response, always claiming they had a phone call or needed a bathroom break.

• They claim to be well-paid professionals in another U.S. city but traveling overseas for work assignments (engineering, mining, solar power, construction, etc.).

• They often say they've lost a spouse, child or other family member in a horrible accident or have seriously ill family members.

• They repeatedly request financial help for varied, urgent reasons: airline tickets to visit you; hospital bills after a car accident; difficulty accessing their bank account while traveling; need for shipping, customs fees, etc. for work assignments; family members require emergency surgery.

• They always have a new story for why repayments don't arrive.

• After an online absence, they call you by a different name, an indication they're working several victims at once.

• If caught in an inconsistency, they always have a cover-up (e.g., someone else used their computer to talk with you) or suggest you don't trust them.

• They insist you keep the relationship secret until they come to live with you.


• For victims seeking support, go to www.RomanceScams.org, an online nonprofit started in 2005 to raise awareness and offer peer counseling.

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