Saturday, May 26, 2012

Online Romance: Proceed with Caution

by Josh Wolford

'Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all

- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1849

Do you think Lord Tennyson was also talking about loving and losing in the realm of online dating? Based on figures from a recent study by the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), we highly doubt it.

According to their new study, the 2011 Internet Crime Report, online “romance scams” cost the lovelorn of the internet over $50 million.

The IC3′s report deals with all kinds of fraud across the interwebs, as they pull from the hundreds of thousands of individual complaints they receive each year. In 2011 alone, IC3 received 314,246 complaints totaling a total loss by victims of $485 million+. That’s around $1,500 in losses reported per complaint. Out of those 314,000+ complaints, 5,600 were of the “romance scam” variety.

What qualifies as a “romance scam” you might ask? Basically, any monetary manipulation using any available internet channel to deceive people with promises of false love. Man, that’s cold.

Victims believe they are “dating” someone decent and honest. However, the online contact is often a criminal with a well-rehearsed script that scammers use repeatedly and successfully. Scammers search chat rooms, dating sites, and social networking sites looking for victims. Although the principal group of victims is over 40 years old, divorced or widowed, disabled and often elderly, all demographics are at risk

Per the IC3′s breakdown, the complaints were made on a visible gender bias. Nearly 4,000 of the 5,600 complaints were from women. The hardest hit group was women between the ages of 40 and 59, who filed 2,656 of the complaints. All in all (men and women), the exact number the IC3 put on the damages was $50,399,563. That’s a lot of fraudulent internet wining, dining, and screwing over.

The Internet Crime Report talks about other common schemes like Auto-action fraud, work-from-home scams, and FBI impersonation email scams – but romance scams stick out. That’s because the average reported loss per victim was higher – $8,900 or $138,000 a day. Love hurts.

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