iStock_000005076471XSmallMany of us have lost significant others in one way or another, and inside many of us is a yearning to establish a new relationship. But how? And where?  Let’s face it, no matter how badly we want romance in our lives, it ain’t going to find us while doing dishes in our kitchen.  So, many of us turn to our computers to search for love in our spare time and in the comfort of our home.

There are many legitimate dating services that facilitate members establishing online relationships.  An increasing number of people have found and married their life’s partner by meeting online. On the other hand, scammers recognize the deep need many of us have to share a relationship, and they are online to exploit our needs.  These nefarious, unscrupulous individuals try to dupe sincere individuals who are searching for love in the wrong places.  These fraudsters pose as would-be girlfriend or boyfriends and respond with time tested responses that strike at our hearts.  They say all the right things to make you believe that this person is almost too good to be true.  And as we’ve all heard, “if something or someone is too good to be true, it probably is.”

Now let me tell you a story about my Uncle Joe.  (Please understand that all stories I tell are true; and some actually happened.  This one could happen to you.)   Joe lost his wife about a year ago.  He stoically continued on going to work and being both dad and mom to his children.  But he was lonely for the type of relationship that only a special person can give.  His heart longed for such a relationship. Surfing the web one night he began communication with “Lena.”  She said she was from Sweden.  She said that she and her husband had immigrated to the U.S. and were now living in San Diego, CA.  According to “Lena” her husband was killed in an accident nine months ago, and she has been alone ever since.   She is 29 years old, has blue eyes and light brown hair, no kids and is employed part-time.  She is looking for someone to share her life with.  Joe thought this was the woman of his dreams.  Except Joe lives in St. Cloud, MN.

They conversed for a week, chatting every evening for progressively longer and longer periods of time.  As true to form, the two soon bypassed the dating service and begin communicating directly.  Then the communication changed to telephone calls as well as emails and chat rooms.  (But fraudsters will not use Skype.)   After a while photographs were exchanged. (While Joe selected a younger photo that favors his image, “Lena” sent a totally false photograph.  What happens next?

One evening “Lena” calls Joe.  Her voice is stressed.  She tells Joe that her mother has cancer and needs medical attention right away. She tells Joe that she has only enough money to travel to Sweden and not enough to pay the medical bills.  She tells Joe she hates to bother him with her problems, but that he is her closest friend in the United States.  She asks him, “Joe what should I do?”

(Don’t you just love questions like that?)  Of course, Joe tells her not to worry.  He asks how much she needs; she says she isn’t sure.   She needs $5,000 up front to pay for the surgeon and maybe more later.  Our old hero Joe says he can help.  He will send her the money.  “Oh thank you,” she responds.  “I don’t know how I can ever make it up to you.  I will tell you what,” she says, ”When I get back I will come to St. Cloud to repay you.”  Now Joe’s heart is pounding.  He asks, “How can I get you the money?  Send a check? Money Order?”  “No,” she says. “Can you wire the money to this bank in China?” He does as she requests.  Our boy Joe just doesn’t get it.

Some people believe that the fraud is over at this point. I believe the fraud has just begun, for now the victim is considered a mope who has already been primed and has already sent money.  His judgment is clouded by a growing love for the scammer’s imaginary character and image. A few weeks later she contacts Joe again.  She is sobbing.  Her mother’s condition has deteriorated and she now needs a transplant.  Even worse, her mother has not saved any money.  A rich uncle in Sweden has said he will pay for the medical bills, but he cannot get there until Friday.  She asks, “Could you please send me $10,000 until Friday?” She promises to return the money to Joe when her uncle arrives.  Joe lustfully agrees. 

A few weeks later, after numerous lies followed by more requests for money, more false promises, misrepresentations, etc.  poor Joe finally realizes that he has been duped.  The scammer has pocketed the money and moved on to the next mope.  Actually, the scammer is quite possibly stringing along several members of the lonely hearts club at the same time.

The result is that the victim is several thousand dollars poorer, thoroughly disillusioned, and is also left with a broken heart. Now he is more reluctant to venture out to find that person with whom he can share his life.

If you explore the unfamiliar world of on line dating remain cautious even if the relationship appears to be progressing well.  These scammers are very skilled at building trust and know how to make vulnerable victims fall in love with them.  Ultimately they will ask you for money.  You should view all money request as highly suspicious.  If this happens to you call Cadfael Investigative Group immediately at (763) 694-6086.  We can help save your money.

--Cadfael.