Finding your soul mate has never been easy. Bars are a drag, blind dates are sketchy. Enter the internet, which offers the lovelorn a wealth of opportunities to search for and find that someone special.
Giving new meaning to the phrase “no good boyfriend” is the sweetheart scam. A typical scenario would begin with the con artist contacting someone who is looking for companionship through an online dating service. Sometimes using photos and profiles stolen from other online daters, the crook makes contact by email or phone, or even text message. He or she then spends time wooing the victim, sending gifts and acting the part of the perfect suitor.
A woman in Ohio was courted by a man who claimed to be an American working abroad. The two began an email correspondence that quickly became passionately romantic. This continued on for months. The man even sent her Valentine’s Day gifts and promised to return to the States to visit her. Then came the scam.
He told the woman he was being paid with money orders, which he was unable to cash, and asked for her help. All she had to do was cash the money orders and wire him the money. After she did so, he asked her to cash another money order to help resolve a visa issue. Again, she agreed.
She only discovered that she had been conned when the bank alerted her to the fact that the money orders were not legitimate. Money orders that were originally in the amount of $20 had been altered to look like they were worth $900 each. By that time, she had lost $2,700 to the mystery man.
These sweetheart scams abound. They always begin with the quick establishment of a relationship between the victim and perpetrator. The victim feels she has found the man of her dreams, someone who seems unbelievably kind and attentive. They talk or write often, even daily, until the perpetrator feels he can make his move. Then the requests start rolling in. It may start with cashing checks or money orders and escalate into outright pleas for money to cover travel or medical expenses or costs associated with some emergency or crisis. In one case, a man claimed his son had been badly injured and asked for money to cover hospital bills.