To make this kind of money, romance scammers often have multiple victims on the hook at once.Huff Post cites a case in which a single person was working 25 online romance scams at once, posing as both men and women.
Romance scammers work by setting up fake profiles on dating sites and social media.
Sometimes, they use fake names and stock photos; in other cases, they steal real people’s names, images, and personal information.
They usually claim to have jobs that keep them outside the country for long periods of time, such as working on an oil rig, serving in the military, or working for a nonprofit.
Next, they seek out victims – usually people who are lonely and vulnerable – and work to build up relationships with them.
Some of them are career criminals, but many are college students with low incomes looking for extra cash.
In Nigeria, many of these fraudsters – known as “Yahoo boys” after the Internet portal Yahoo – have grown very rich, buying multiple houses, fancy cars, and expensive jewelry with the proceeds of their crimes.Britain’s Telegraph newspaper reported in 2016 on a woman who was sentenced to two years in prison for writing scripts for romance scams, including one in which the scammer claimed to be a widow whose husband was killed in the 9/11 attacks. Often they’ll start out by asking for a small amount, such as a few extra dollars for a child’s birthday present.Once they know the victim is hooked, they pretend to go through some kind of crisis that requires a large amount of cash to fix, such as a robbery, a medical or legal problem, a frozen bank account, or a business opportunity.The scammers admit that the romance started out as a con job, but claims that they’ve fallen in love with the victim.Then they use their emotional hold over the victim to lure them into helping them with their crimes – sometimes even turning them into accomplices in other scams.They can spend months winning over their victims with regular conversations, long e-mails, poetry, gifts, and declarations of love – everything except face-to-face meetings.