June 24, 2014Richard Melick By Richard Melick: Marketing Outreach Specialist

A peek inside the online romance scam.

online-dating-scamOnline dating can be rough, and no matter how many safeguards are in place in the multiple legitimate dating websites out there, the scammers are getting around the blocks and still luring in potential victims.  While the reports of these types of scams are out there (even with copy and paste examples of the e-mails used), people still fall for the scams every day.  In this particular case, it was my profile on eHarmony that was targeted, and this is my recount of it.

It started with a potential match; a profile with a collection of tasteful photos of a beautiful woman, not too ‘out there’, but a face that stood out from the crowd.  The profile was fairly complete, with a few of the smaller-scale questions not answered.  Overall, the profile initially raised no suspicion for me.  So, I started the song and dance that is the eHarmony way, and back and forth we went with questions and such.  That is, until the last stage when the match sent over a cryptic message of not being able to communicate via the system and that I should e-mail her.  And up went the red flag.

Now, most systems out there allow communication up to a certain point, and in this case, eHarmony was on a free communication week, and even if it hadn’t been, we had not reached that final ‘free’ part yet.  Assuming that many of the companies have basic language and text scanned in their internal mail systems, it can be supposed that the person on the other end was avoiding being flagged.

So with this e-mail in hand (my inbox), I decided to see how far this rabbit hole went.  Using a non-personal e-mail address that I setup for mailing lists, I contacted my match with a basic re-introduction and waited.  A few hours later, I received back an incredibly long, detailed e-mail with a few photos attached.  The e-mail was not well written, and the local geographic locations mentioned in it did not make sense in description.  At this point, I was 100% sure it was a scam and decided to reverse image search the photos, which lead me to a model out of Australia, and then searched the a generic line of text to find over 78,000 results showing almost exact copies of the e-mail I had received.

A quick reply back lead to an even longer response from the scammer, again using photos from the model’s profile page and the same content found on many scam reporting websites.  But this time, I was being asked for money, as ‘she’ was stuck in London, unable to get home.  Conveniently, there was already a bank account setup for me to transfer money.  At this point, I had what I needed for this write-up, and so I  marked the account as ‘spam’ and reported the profile to the eHarmony team.

So what can we learn from this little experience?  Well, a few things.  Despite the safeguards in place to help protect those looking for a relationship online, the protection is not perfect, and users need to be educated.  Here are a few tips for you to help spot a potential scammer:

  • Claims of being from the United States but currently visiting overseas
  • Making claims of wanting to fly back to meet, but unable to do so because of work or a tragic incident.
  • Wanting to leave a dating site immediately and use personal e-mail addresses to communicate.
  • Irregular use of the English language, improper use of slang, and over punctuation.
  • Hinting at or asking for money to help secure travel back ‘home’
  • Professionally taken photographs that look straight-out of a runway magazine

Remember, you will never know who is on the other side of that screen until you meet them.  Use safe and cautious measures, never give out personal information, and be aware of the tricks being used on the digital daters of today.

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1 comments
Desi521
Desi521

Richard, I was "hit up" 2x by different people. Once on Match.com & once on another well known site-the name completely escapes me at the moment. lol We both ha d tons of questions for each other & one even called me. We both seemed to be pretty good matches. Well, after about a week, the 1st one pulled the crap about his overseas shipment being help up due to new regulations. The 2nd one was from Quebec & even had pics of a 12 yr old daughter. We went back & forth for almost 2 weeks. When I mentioned for the 2nd time that if he wanted $. he was out of luck, I never heard back from him. I did go out with one guy who actually had $, but I didn't feel a connection so I didn't go out with him again. I know he had some $ due to him having a brand new BMW & there were too many details about what he did. I believe he was actually truthful due to him being retired military. I know quite a bit about the military as my son-in-law is in the service. I stopped both of my on-line services & haven't been back. BTW, I completely agree with your warnings. The misuse of slang or just a word in a sentence is a HUGE red flag!

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