For Theresa Smalley, Richie was the perfect man. He described himself as “loving, caring and hardworking”, with a picture of him and his cat cuddling on a couch. Richie first contacted Theresa through an online dating website, asking her if she’d like to chat with him. Theresa was flattered, and the two of them struck up an online relationship that lasted for four months. In the first few weeks, Theresa was in heaven. Richie sent her chocolates, a teddy bear and a balloon for Valentine’s day, which was accompanied by many passionate emails.
Richie told Theresa that he was from Massachusetts, though he was out of the country helping to build a stadium in Nigeria. He hoped to be returning home to the USA soon, as he “couldn’t wait” to see Theresa in person. However, that day never came.
Richie began asking Theresa to cash money orders for him, and to send him the money she received. Without a second thought, she did as he asked, and wired the money she received to him in Nigeria. When Richie was ready to come home to the United States, he said that he encountered a problem with his visa, and asked for Theresa’s help again in cashing money orders. Theresa sent over $2,700 to “Richie” before she finally realized that something was wrong. Her bank called her, telling her that the money orders that she’d been cashing were fraudulent, and that she would need to pay back all of the money she had received. That’s when Theresa’s world fell apart, and she realized that the man that she’d been in love with for four months didn’t even exist.
Theresa is by no means the first woman to fall victim to an online dating scam. A quick scan of online forums shows that thousands of women each year are approached by alleged scammers through online dating websites. To protect yourself, you should be aware of some of the common warning signs of a scam.
1. An Incomplete Profile
Many scammers won’t take the time to completely fill out their online dating website profile in detail.
2. Foreign Country
Be wary of scammers that may claim to be in another country, but still claim to have citizenship in the United States. A common scam is for a man to claim that he’s in the army, deployed in a foreign country.
In many cases, two or three scammers may communicate to their victims through a single online dating profile. Be wary of emails/messages that signal a change in tone, aggressiveness or a sudden shift in personality.
4. Asking for Money
No matter how genuine you believe someone to be, always be extremely cautious when they begin asking for money! This seems like common sense, but thousands of women each year are victims of online dating scams.
5. “Too Perfect”
A scammer will often be charismatic, charming, understanding and flirtatious. They will listen to your problems, and may appear to be free of personality defects. Their picture will be attractive, and they may even send you flowers, chocolates or other gifts through the mail. Don’t be fooled! A combination of key warning signs may mean that your online beau is really a scammer in disguise.