Janet N. Cook, 76, was duped by a dashing younger man. A report at nytimes.com explains that in July 2011 she connected with Kelvin Wells via a dating site.

1FNext thing, this seemingly-together man was in trouble and needed lots of money. Cook got burned; she sent the crook nearly $300,000 (amazing; just try to get a friend to give you $100).

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center warns:

  • If that wonderful man (or woman) sounds too good to be true and speaks poetically, e.g., “We were meant to be together,” run for the hills.
  • If they claim they love you, can’t live without you, etc., come on, this should turn you OFF, not ON.
  • Be suspicious of those claiming they’re originally from the U.S. but are now overseas or are entrenched in some heavy business or family situation.
  • Be leery of those insisting, very early on, that all communications be done via e-mail, phone or instant message (to avoid detection by the dating site).
  • If they claim they need you to send money for their travel expenses to meet you, make like an airplane and drop the bomb on them.
  • Older women are typical targets due to their accumulated wealth.

It’s a numbers game for these smooth-talking scammers. They keep hunting ‘til they find that lonely, vulnerable victim, usually a woman living by herself who becomes enthralled at all the gushy e-mails and phone calls from Mr. Dashing. He may have told his sob story to 500 women just to land one victim, but for $300,000, it’s time well spent.

According to the IC3, about 6,000 people reported such scams between July 1 and December 31 of 2014.

Is this $300,000 an anomaly? The nytimes.com article tells of a woman in Pensacola, Florida who gave her swindler $292,000.

Victims aren’t necessarily uneducated. The article cites Louise B. Brown, a nurse from Vermont, who’d been scammed. Brown, 68, met Thomas on Match.com. He was about to leave for Malaysia (typical story; originally from the U.S. but currently living in or about to travel to a foreign land—HUGE red flag!). She sent Thomas $60,000 and ate up her savings. These guys must be good; where do they find such vulnerable victims?

Really, the rule is simple: If the guy asks you for money, drop him. End of story. But by the time these clever crooks tell you they’ve been robbed by bandits in a remote Southeast Asian village, the victim is already under his spell—but there were warning signs before even that happened (see above bullet list).

It took only three weeks for Betty L. Davies of Georgia to fall under the spell of Donald Leo Moore. Davies, 62, gave him a whopping amount of money after he claimed he’d been robbed while in Malaysia. Then his chemical engineering project ran into trouble and she gave him $20,000. He then needed $30,000 thanks to Singaporean officials. Total money lost: nearly $300,000.

“Script” of the Scammer

  • Build victim’s trust
  • Create sense of urgency

If Mr. Dashing has any of the aforementioned traits, immediately report him to law enforcement, even if you know the truth: That your lent money is gone forever.

Prevent Getting Scammed

  • I’m going to play psychologist here and ask you why you’d want to get involved with a man who travels. Think of all the hardships this would bring to a relationship. One of the common denominators in scammers is that they claim they’re overseas or will soon be going there.
  • Psychologist again: Lower your standards. MUST he have a glamorous job like international relations, foreign road construction or cruise ship engineering? MUST he type and speak like a poet? Swindlers will present themselves as very accomplished and above the common man.
  • MUST you equate constant attention from Mr. Dashing with compatibility and honesty? Cook was hooked by Kelvin’s constant attention.
  • MUST you travel to the Bahamas and Bermuda to be happy? Brown’s scammer promised her trips there.
  • Right-click on the man’s profile image to see where else online it shows up.
  • If his verbiage sounds canned, paste it into the search engine to see if it appears on romance scam sites.
  • Immediately alert the dating site when a suitor asks for money.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

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