"When some 25-year-old girl is telling you that she's in love with you, you have to wonder why," he says. If a 25-year-old model is contacting a 50-year-old man, there's something wrong." Scammers look for vulnerable populations -- women and men in their 50s and 60s who are divorced or widowed and may feel rejected or past their prime.
"You see this communication and think, 'Oh my gosh, I must be more attractive than I thought! They're also likely to target people with weight problems and those recovering from illnesses. Any of these issues might make you a bit more anxious about your ability to find love and potentially more receptive to the con.
That's important to the con artist, who'll want to troll the site again for future victims when done with you.
Do your fellow legitimate members a favor and be sure to report abusers. Budgyk, 56, doesn't suffer for a lack of confidence, but he also knows something is amiss when a model half his age just can't get enough of him.
But individuals who frequent them say scams are pervasive. Match.com, for instance, includes a disclaimer at the bottom of every onsite email between members, warning not to send money or provide credit card information to anyone you've met on the site.
"I probably hear from five scammers a night," says Marko Budgyk, a Los Angeles financier who has frequented several online dating sites over the past 10 years.
He found out when he discovered his photos were on a romance scam site warning about the same Nigerian crook who had stolen his photos. If a profile indicates your match has a college degree, but he or she can't string a sentence together, you have reason to be suspicious. Commonly, when the victim proposes an in-person meeting, they'll come up with some excuse for why it can't happen: They're traveling, stationed overseas or have some long-distance emergency. Uncertain of whether she should believe the man, Kipps Googled "photos of sick children." And of course, the photographs she'd been getting via text message were public images posted online.
Morrison says she realizes that photos posted by her one-time suitor were also fakes. Linguistic anomalies: Bad grammar, strange word choices and linguistic gymnastics are other signs of a foreign scammer, experts say. Kipps says her worst experience was with a man who claimed to be a widower raising his five-year-old daughter. Says Kipps: "What kind of horrible person does something like that?
Sh'reen Morrison had been on an online dating site for only a few weeks before she realized that something was seriously wrong with the man who had been actively pursuing her by text message and email.Though the amounts and details of the scam vary from victim to victim, when it comes to romance scams, the con is almost always the same: The crook wants to get a besotted victim to wire money or provide access to a credit card.If the victim doesn't figure out the con after the first request for cash, the crook will keep milking the relationship for as much as he or she can get.Where do the scammers get photos of themselves in these exotic locations and with these costly products? They troll other sites and steal other people's photos. Many are operating out of foreign countries, despite profiles saying they live nearby. When she declined, the messages got more desperate.Budgyk knows this from experience: A Nigerian scammer lifted photos from Budgyk's profile. Their photographs are also likely of someone else, and that would be tough to explain in person. He sent heart-wrenching photos of a young girl, who appeared to be his daughter's age, hooked to a raft of medical monitors.When Morrison suggested that her suitor put his daughter on a plane to get better medical attention at home -- and even offered to pick the girl up at the airport -- a new crisis struck.