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"He said he was going to pay me back double," she laughs.Though the amounts and details of the scam vary from victim to victim, when it comes to romance scams, the con is almost always the same: The crook wants to get a besotted victim to wire money or provide access to a credit card."I probably hear from five scammers a night," says Marko Budgyk, a Los Angeles financier who has frequented several online dating sites over the past 10 years."After a while, it becomes really easy to spot them." Here are six red flags to help detect and sidestep romance scams.By then, Morrison knew she was dealing with a scammer."The story was getting more and more bizarre," she says.There are no statistics saying just how common scammers are on dating sites.But individuals who frequent them say scams are pervasive. Match.com, for instance, includes a disclaimer at the bottom of every onsite email between members, warning not to send money or provide credit card information to anyone you've met on the site.
"When some 25-year-old girl is telling you that she's in love with you, you have to wonder why," he says. If a 25-year-old model is contacting a 50-year-old man, there's something wrong." Scammers look for vulnerable populations -- women and men in their 50s and 60s who are divorced or widowed and may feel rejected or past their prime.
Morrison says she realizes that photos posted by her one-time suitor were also fakes. Linguistic anomalies: Bad grammar, strange word choices and linguistic gymnastics are other signs of a foreign scammer, experts say. Kipps says her worst experience was with a man who claimed to be a widower raising his five-year-old daughter. Says Kipps: "What kind of horrible person does something like that?
She now examines photos of everyone who contacts her to see if she can match them in Google images to a real person. When reading an email, ask yourself whether the sentence structure strikes you as strange. Just as they were about to meet, he had a sudden emergency and had to fly to the Philippines, where his daughter was supposedly staying with a relative. Immediately after Kipps' date left for Manila, she started getting text messages about the emergency that sent him overseas.
If the victim doesn't figure out the con after the first request for cash, the crook will keep milking the relationship for as much as he or she can get.
When the victim gets wise, the con artist gets scarce. But the increasing popularity of online dating gives them the perfect conditions to proliferate.