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Faking it — scammers’ tricks to steal your heart and money
Media Video Audio Photos. All demographics are at risk for online dating scams. However, scams disproportionately target older women: Women who have been divorced, disabled, or widowed are also prime targets. This data is likely under-reported due to victims' embarrassment and the psychological impact of the crimes . It is also believed that these scams are designed such that victims self-select; the nature of the scams decreases victim density and selects only the most vulnerable victims .
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In one case published by the U. State Department , a male dating-service user has courted a potential companion for several months before being asked for money to cover her bizarre expenses :. In this case, the male suitor began to ask probing questions about his online companion's access to credit , her exact location, and her family resources.
After several unconvincing answers the scammer claims her country is West Africa and that her entire family perished recently in a plane crash , the suitor terminates the relationship, avoiding fraud. This situation illustrates several common characteristics of scams. Other notable examples include those with actual photographs used to deceive potential victims. These images often appear to be modified or copied out of glamour magazines; unrealistically attractive or flawless people are often indicators of some degree of fraud .
As an outsider, many online romance scams seem obvious. Fifty-two percent of Internet-using adults have heard of these deceptions .
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One out of fifty adults online personally know a victim . In popular culture, like the television show Flight of the Conchords , online scam victims are portrayed as naive, oblivious, or out-of-date . Despite this, people continue to be duped by these scams. Many psychological effects, including self-deception , optimism bias , and the valence effect , cause people to fall for these scams.
Self-deception is when a person rationalizes away or denies opposing evidence or logic. In online romance scams, victims overlook noticeable red flags for personal reasons. One victim who exhibited this effect is Dori Hartley. After surviving cancer, Dori Hartley was in a five year online relationship with a scammer pretending to be a cancer patient named "Dimitri.
To an outside observer, this action seems suspicious and characteristic of an online dating scam. However, Dori overlooked her lover's suspect claim:. Dori's recent psychological trauma caused her to rationalize this suspicious activity for a shot at love with someone who also experienced the same pain and suffering she did.
Victims project their own perceptions on suspicious behavior because they desperately want their online relationship to succeed. People who recently experienced hardship, such as divorcees and widowers, tend to fall in this category. Optimism bias is when someone feels less at risk for a negative outcome than the average person. Many victims believe that because so many people use online dating sites, their chances of coming across a romance scammer are fairly slim. One out of five single Americans have gone on a date with someone they met online . The optimism bias causes legitimate users of online dating websites to underestimate their own risk of encountering an online romance scam.
However, all demographics are at risk for online dating scams, and more people on dating websites can lead to more scammers looking to exploit them.
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The valence effect occurs when people tend to overestimate the probability of a positive event. Victims of online romance scams are often influenced by the perceived success of online dating websites. In the United States, seventeen percent of couples married between and met through an online dating service .
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On average, Americans matched on eHarmony are married every day . Victims of online romance scams believe they will have the same success in their online relaitionships. Online dating has been featured in popular culture. Popular films, such as You've Got Mail and Must Love Dogs , feature protagonists who meet online, fall in love, and live happily ever after. These movies perpetuate unrealistic, pristine expectations for online relationships and may shape victims' assumptions, causing them to overlook suspicious online behavior in exchange for a chance at love.
Online Dating Scams use internet technology to augment scamming practices that have existed for hundreds of years. The evolution of technology in scams can be analyzed through three case-studies: Holmes , and Oral Roberts. William Thompson lived in New York City in the s.
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Thompson built personal relationships with strangers on the street and asked to borrow their valuable pocket-watches before disappearing. Through this practice, Thompson was dubbed by the media as the first "Confidence Man . Holmes took advantage of the technology showcased at the Chicago World's Fair to become one of the first documented American serial killers.
Holmes preyed on visitors to the fair, offering them a place to stay or companionship before taking their lives. Although he exploited contemporary technology to reach a high concentration of victims, Holmes relied on his own ability to attract people in person to deceive his victims. Oral Roberts was a televangelist who took advantage of television technology to find a large and varied group of donors for his controversial fundraising tactics . Like Holmes, Roberts' use of contemporary technology helped him find a wide set of victims.
However, television does not provide anonymity; Roberts' success still rested on his attractiveness and personal relations skills. The internet dating scam can be viewed as the next step in this evolution - online scammers attract their victims through similar tactics, but they are able to take advantage of the internet's wide audience and anonymity. Another prominent type of scam is the Advance Fee Fraud. In this class of scam, the scammer tells the victim that they need help moving or securing a large sum of money, and in exchange for assistance the victim can keep a percentage of the money.
The victim, in order to accept the deal, gives the scammer their bank account information . Much like dating scams and Confidence Scams, Advance Fee Frauds started as early as  and have grown in prevalance and complexity along with relevant technologies. Catfishing is another form of online dating scam, but unlike those above it does not typically involve the scammer trying to get money from the target.
The individuals use similar tactics as above and become romantically involved with their targets. Their motives can range from elaborate pranks to pleasure in the manipulation of others. After pursuing an online relationship with what he thought was a young woman named Megan, Schulman discovered that "Megan" was really a middle-aged married woman.
Schulman took the name "catfish" after a story the woman's husband told: In life, the husband explained, there were also "catfish"--people that keep others on their toes, keeping life from being boring. The victims are encouraged to contact their online romantic interest, and the production crew facilitates a meeting between them. The show is interesting in that, in cases where the individual was being catfished, the crew does not attempt to embarrass the catfisher, as one might expect, but rather listens to their motives objectively and tries to promote understanding.
There is some debate on the legitimacy of the stories portrayed and production. Ultimately, on January 16th, , Deadspin published an article revealing the hoax. According to Te'o the two became Facebook friends in , and they began an emotional relationship that became romantic in Communication between the two only occurred through messaging and telephone, and the two would never speak face-to-face. Te'o did plan to fly to Los Angeles to visit her in April before she abruptly cancelled.
Kekua also got into a car accident later that same month, an event confirmed by her brother and Te'o's own friend, John Pepelnjak. In June , Kekua informed Te'o that she had been diagnosed with leukemia.
http://www.redesignmyresume.com/includes/adair/good-dating-profile-for-a-man.php He attempted to visit her once more, but was unable to because of family commitments. Kekua "died" in September, but the hoax would continue. In November, Te'o met Tuiasosopo at an event set up to honor and remember Kekua. Te'o then received a call on December 6th from Kekua saying that she was not dead. Te'o's case is a textbook example of catfishing. The scam does not involve money and is undertaken by the catfisher for emotional purposes.