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“There was one woman who got scammed for over a million dollars, her whole retirement nest egg,” Farquhar says.
Just over a year ago, the Department of Justice announced that seven men—six from Nigeria and one from South Africa—had pleaded guilty to conning tens of millions of dollars from Americans via online dating sites.
While the case was remarkable for its magnitude, when it comes to so-called “romance scams,” it still represents just the tip of the iceberg.
Experts say online daters are always wise to be skeptical regarding what someone they’ve met online, and not in the flesh, tells them.
Most dating websites—even ones that cost money—don’t vet the people who sign up.
(The FBI says it may be embarrassing for victims to report this type of fraud scheme because of the personal relationships that are developed, so the real numbers are probably higher.) As one result, fear of a horrible first date is just one of the things a would-be online dater has to worry about. “Most people think the victims are middle-aged women who can’t get a date, but I have worked with men and women of all ages—doctors and lawyers, CEOs of companies, people from the entertainment industry—who you’d never think in a million years would fall for these scams but do,” says Barb Sluppick, who runs Romance Scams, a watchdog site and online support group.
According to a recent Consumer Reports Online Dating Survey of more than 114,000 subscribers, among the respondents who were considering online dating but were hesitant, 46 percent said they were concerned about being scammed. “Typically the scammer builds trust by writing long letters over weeks or months and crafting a whole persona for their victims,” says David Farquhar, Supervisory Special Agent with the FBI.We use 100% of these fees to fund our testing programs.Digital technology and smartphones in particular have transformed many aspects of our society, including how people seek out and establish romantic relationships.According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of Internet fraud.In 2016, the last year for which data is available, consumers lost more than 0 million this way.That is a substantial increase from the 43% of online daters who had actually progressed to the date stage when we first asked this question in 2005.