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The scammer often will make excuses for why he or she can’t talk on the phone, or will make – and then cancel – plans to meet you.
“They get the victim in a fog so she’s no longer thinking clearly.” It’s not unusual for scammers to claim they’re in the military. Even senior Department of Defense leaders have had their identities stolen by these fraudsters.
Don’t disclose your last name, your address, your place of work or other personal details until you meet your love interest in person. You also can copy portions of emails a love interest has sent and use an online search engine to see if the text appears elsewhere, because many scammers work off scripts, Nofziger says.
Also, copy his or her photo and do an image search to see if anyone else shows up with that photo, Nofziger says.
“The victims are legitimately in love, legitimately care for this person. They’re thinking emotionally, not cognitively.” In some cases, victims have bought wedding dresses, engagement rings or made wedding plans with someone they’ve never met, Nofziger says.
“The victims often don’t have doubts because scammers are so good at nurturing relationships,” says Todd Kossow, director of the Midwest region of the Federal Trade Commission, which collects scam reports.
Of 288,000 online scams, with losses totaling almost $1.1 billion, romance scams accounted for 20 percent of all losses and only 4 percent of all victims. “They’re all smoke and mirrors,” Barb Sluppick, owner of Romance Scams.org, says of the scammers.