Are you a lady of a certain age? Do you use social media? Have you noticed lately that you’ve had friend requests, follows, or random flattering comments from men you don’t know? You’re almost certainly being targeted by a romance scammer.
Typically, this is how they work. They use a profile photo of a good looking, distinguished middle-aged man. They may be in military uniform. Their user name will be a relatively common, USA/UK name with numbers tagged at the end, eg johnwilliams45735. If their target bites by either following back or friending them they will move onto stage 2.
If they don’t get a response they might step it up by studying public posts going back several months and making a comment that’s relevant. For example, say you have posted about eye make up in the past they might drop a comment on your latest post saying they’d like to be your friend and by the way, you have amazing eyes. Flattery will get you anywhere, as they say.
The profile photo they use will not be of themselves, neither is that their real name. The photo will likely have been copied from a legitimate profile. One way of checking out profile photos is to search on Google by image. Download the photo to your own computer or if that’s not possible take a screenshot. If you click on the camera in Google image search you can either paste in the URL of the photo or upload the image you’ve downloaded to your computer. You might discover that the original photo has been stolen from a minor politician in a small European country or a general in the USA
I used this method earlier today with a suspicious profile and the results showed that the same photo was being used on over 20 accounts.
I know you’re thinking that you’d never be caught out by this sort of scam but these guys can be patient, persistent and practised in their scammy ways. The idea seems to be that they throw out the bait in terms of follows, friend requests etc to thousands of women. Most won’t bite, but maybe a hundred will friend them, that at least gives them a little ‘social proof’ when they send out further friend requests. Out of the hundred maybe twenty will engage in conversation, maybe ten may be open to a romantic relationship, maybe two will have money and then there’s the one who’s willing to spend it. Because make no mistake this is always about money although it might not be obvious initially.
To begin with this man will seem perfect. He typically will have a high powered job abroad, is either widowed or divorced with grown up children. He’s caring, kind – everything a woman could want. He will fall in love quickly and be constantly attentive, online and on the phone. He won’t be able to meet up because he’s working abroad, and he can’t video chat because <phone broken, poor signal> insert excuse here. He will promise a future together with his chosen target and once she is properly locked into this mirage, which may take several months, he will make his move.
Of course not every scammer works the same way and they change their methods regularly but a typical story might see him saying he’s finally coming home and they can be together. Much anticipation and excitement but then disaster, he’s had his money stolen, lost his passport, his child has had an accident, replace with any scenario where he needs money very quickly and for some reason can’t get hold of his own. The woman is now committed to this ‘relationship’ and of course she’s going to help out her prospective life partner in his hour of need, it’s an emergency, after all. The money will have to be wired to prevent tracing and if the woman agrees then this is just the beginning. There will be plausible reason after plausible reason to keep on giving money. Of course he’s promising to pay it back and even if the target is starting to get suspicious they may not be willing to walk away from their ‘investment’.
Naturally it all ends badly with some women losing thousands of pounds or dollars. They may be left devastated, humiliated and sometimes don’t even share the scam with their family and friends. Sadly, this often happens to the most vulnerable, including older women who may be lonely after a bereavement or divorce. It also appears this particular scam has been on the increase during COVID-19 because so many of us have been been isolated and using the internet more regularly for communication.
I know you won’t be caught out but spread the word particularly amongst your older family and friends, not just women either because these are equal opportunity scammers. Men get fooled just as easily as women.
What to do if a likely scammer approaches you? From romancescam.com: Never inform scammers that you know what they’re doing. Block, ignore and report to the site they used to contact you.