Studies in Romance Scamming

Anna Alden-Tirrill is the co-author of the book Cyber Love's Illusions. These blogs are her case studies and research into Romance Scamming, the fastest-growing Victim-Crime in the world.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Charade: Has the Internet's "Safest Dating Site" Become a Scammer Haven?

In our book, Cyber Love's Illusions: Exploring Internet Romance Scams, we have dedicated a whole chapter to "Finding Love in All the Right Places." We invite our readers to enter our "Scam-Free Zone," and on the way there, we take them through the "Black List Zone." We are already in our second edition of the book. This new edition includes a lot of added material and new victim stories. We are disappointed that we have had to add a few more Internet Dating Sites to our Black List. We are equally disappointed that the ranks of the three sites in our Scam-Free Zone have not increased.

Since the book was first published in February of this year, one dating site has definitely surprised us. They were already on our Black List, but the sad stories we hear from scam victims are coming in at a rate which is getting our undivided attention. This particular site also surprises us because it might be one of the sites people least expect to be a haven for scammers. This dating site's CEO and his staff clearly hold their site out as THE "Moral Compass" when it comes to Internet dating, claiming to be the safest dating site on the Internet. Each "communicating member" goes through a mandatory criminal background check and marital status check, based upon public records on the Internet.

Here is what they have posted on their site:

"Our Member Safety team vigorously pursues individuals who misrepresent themselves on our website. We report violators to appropriate federal, state and local authorities, including parole boards. We also actively pursue prosecution of these offenders in other ways."

With this kind of "vigor," consumers are left with the undeniable impression that this site is indeed safe, in fact, maybe THE safest site around. But, the fact of the matter is, THIS SITE IS NOT SAFE! We're not in a position to declare if this site is safe from felons and married people, but we can say that IT IS NOT SAFE FROM SCAMMERS. In fact, it is a veritable SCAMMER HAVEN!

Romance Scams are the fastest growing scam on the Internet. Billions of dollars a year are being stolen from hard-working Americans and other Westerners and sent to West African nations, especially Nigeria, and also to Russia and other former Soviet Republics. To make matters worse, the F.B.I. has confirmed that a percentage of this money is being funneled to Islamic Terrorists for use in Global Terrorism against freedom-loving people.

So, when we see sites which are Scammer Havens, we realize there is a lot at stake. Not only are hearts being broken, bank accounts being emptied, innocent victims being charged with felonies, but terrorists like Osama bin Laden are mocking us and using our own money against us to destroy us and our economy.

Which site has captured our attention? None other than True.com, founded and owned by multi-billionaire business tycoon Herb Vest of Dallas, Texas. Are we to believe that Mr. Vest and his associates are not aware of scammer infestation on their dating site? They talk so much about being felon- and married-free. In fact, on his own website, http://www.herbvest.com/saferdating.html, Mr. Vest makes the following statement:

"In addition to screening our own communicating members for criminal backgrounds, TRUE is doing everything it can to make the online dating community at-large a more wholesome environment for courtship – one that provides increased protection from predators and criminals."

On his True.com site, http://www.true.com/saferdating, in an open letter, Mr. Vest comments further on his commitment to members' safety:

"I wholeheartedly believe that it is incumbent upon each dating service currently operating in cyberspace to make the safety and security of its members its number one priority . . . Together, we can clean up the online dating industry."

Number one priority? If they claim to be such a safe and secure dating site, then why have they not addressed the growing predator/scammer epidemic on their site? Words about commitment are cheap. Sincere words will lead to sincere action.

If they claim to be such a safe and secure dating site, then what are they doing to address the growing scammer epidemic on their site? Several months ago, we wrote to ask them what they are doing about the common scammer problem, and they did not respond to our inquiry.

We know they are fully aware of this problem because below are a few samples of the letters they have received from their members who are complaining about scammers on their site. Each letter a member sent received the generic, "We'll look into it" reply. We don't know if the scammer profiles were removed or not. The point here is that they must know they have a problem. And, what are they doing to address this growing problem head-on?

Subject: YOU ARE ADVERTISING SCAMMERS AGAIN

"I’m writing at this time to inform you that you’re posting a profile and picture of a Nigerian scammer. The picture isn’t the real person, but was stolen from http://www.focushawaii.com/, and this person has been scamming American women out of thousands of dollars. If you do an IP address check on this member, you’ll see it is from Nigeria. This is the third scammer I’ve found!"

A female member wrote:

Subject: Photo issues

"romeo306912 is using photos from http://www.focushawaii.com/ which is a modeling site. He is a suspected scammer and needs to be removed from your database!"

Another female member wrote:

Subject: Report offensive users

"Arnold IS A NIGERIAN SCAMMER, go to http://www.focushawaii.com/ and http://www.romancescam.com/ and www.datingnmore.com sites to see this man's face. REMOVE HIM NOW if you want me to continue to be a customer. He is the model, RICK on Focus Hawaii."

Here are several stories, written by real people, which our research has found and which we want to take out of the shadows into the light. The last tragic story should make anyone sit up and take notice, and then take action:

A male member wrote:

"I met her on True.com back in October, 2005, and her email is ab_coleluv@yahoo.com. I was scammed in November for over $2,000. This women says her name is Absiola Omoniyi, and she told me to send the money to Lagos Island Lagos State Nigeria. I sent money orders to cash for her, and send her the money Western Union. Like an idiot, I fell for it. My bank held the money orders for 4 days, but they came back counterfeit after about 7 days. Of course, by then, I had sent the money. I can't get a bank account now because of this person."

Another male member wrote:

"I met Ekaterina Usova from St. Petersburg, Russia on True. com when she wrote me a letter saying her friend Natasha had found a boyfriend on the Internet and they now lived together and she was looking for true love. After a week and a half, she said she had fallen in love and wanted to come see me but needed money for her passport and visa. She needed $383. I told her I did not have it. She kept writing for several more weeks telling me she was looking forward to coming and seeing me. She even forwarded a letter that her mother had written me via email. And let me know how excited they were that she was so happy and had found love. She stopped writing after I told her that I would come to Russia to see her."

Another man was scammed by a Russian “woman” on True.com:

"Been writing to this hot Russian dentist named NADEZHDA ANDRIYAUSKAS! She wrote to me through True.com under hopes_dreams. Never once did I suspect anything. Then I got an e-mail from her with photo of passport and she was short $219, so I helped her out! Then she went to Moscow, and needed $500 for leaving Russia. After she gets the money, I get e-mail from her telling me she is in hospital. Then that is it! Have not heard anything else. Then my friend tells me, he is writing to this Russian model and sends me a photo of her and sure enough, there she is in all her glory! She caught me completely off guard and I feel like an idiot."

Here's yet another story of a man who met his scammer on True.com:

"I originally met her on True.com. I have not received any responses from the FBI website that I reported this to. I thought she was for real and all of her e-mail was very convincing. She told me she needed money for her visa and air fare. I sent her $400. I also sent here $1,700 for air fare and money for hotel and food while she obtained her visa. She then stated she had received the visa and found out she needed $1,000 for guarantee money to prove to customs she had enough money to stay in the states. I sent it to her. I later found after contacting the embassy that this was a common scam. She then stated that she got in trouble with customs by not claiming a Russian gift and had to pay a fine and fees and was short money for the trip and asked for and additional $650. I was about to send it when the Western Union rep told me she was receiving money from several locations in the states. She e-mailed me trying to make me feel guilty for her problems and still asked for more money."

Another male wrote:

"I was scammed out of $50,000. I cannot believe I was so stupid and naive. I truly believed that these "women" were in love with me. I have lost everything, and sacrificed so much of my life. Now I am filing for bankruptcy because of this, and I am seriously contemplating suicide, though I am probably too much of a coward to kill myself. I am going to have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to struggle and survive until I can get back on my feet. I may even have to be homeless for awhile until I can save enough to get a place to live again. People consider me a very intelligent person, and no one believes that I fell victim to this and let it completely destroy my life. I have given all information to the FBI. I even made sure it was passed along to INTERPOL. But I was basically told that the sheer volume of people being scammed over the Internet everyday is more than the FBI (or INTERPOL) can handle. In fact, an agent of the FBI told me that I should be glad that I did not lose more. Apparently, there are many people who have lost much more than I have. In some cases, older people have lost their entire life's savings for retirement and/or now have more debt than they can ever pay back. I guess this is a national problem, and it is an epidemic that is beginning to hurt our economy. But, no one seems to know what to do to stop it."

There ARE ways to stop it. If True.com and other scammer-infested Internet dating sites really WANT to clean up their sites from these lurking parasites and really make their sites safe for their members, they can. It's not that difficult, but it does require being proactive, vigilant, diligent, and committed to member safety with action following. It means cleaning up their database and then keeping it clean.

In an interview with Internet Patrol, Mr. Vest made the following comments:

"The most important duty of government is to protect its citizens. One way government can protect the health and safety of its citizens is requiring companies to disclose limitations in their product or service. Government required disclosure is a common practice. From the tobacco industry to the food and drug industry, disclosure is a proven and effective method of communicating with consumers, particularly when health and safety is concerned."

If True.com decides to ignore or minimize the problem they have with scammers among their members, perhaps Mr. Vest should take his own advice, even without government legislation, and put a notice on his company's home page which states: "There are SCAMMERS among us. Enter at your own risk. Beware!"

If True.com wants to remain a leading contender in the Online Dating Industry, or even become the Champion, wresting the title from Yahoo! or Match.com, they need to clean house. Otherwise, I do believe the handwriting is on the wall. Growing consumer dissatisfaction will inevitably lead to costly litigation and public outrage, eventually taking down The Golden Boy's Mighty Multi-Billion Dollar Empire.

Buy a copy of our book, Cyber Love's Illusions, written by myself with Jonathan van Helsing, and see what the three dating sites in our Scam-Free Zone are doing to keep their sites scammer-free and a safe haven, not for clever scammers, but for their valued members.

Click here to buy the book: http://www.cyberlovesillusions.com/

It is also available on Amazon.com

Respectfully submitted,

Anna Alden-Tirrill

12 Comments:

  • At 6:48 PM, Blogger The Geezer said…

    Kathryn Lord turned me on to this article as a result of my demonstrating to her that true.com cooks the process.

    Very obviously, true told this lady that I winked at her, which I can assure you I did not, and this is an automated reply from her.

    There is no way in Hell I would do anything without a pix, and I don't wink, so I am certain that it is not a mistake.

    Interesting that when True sends me "Jojo winked at you" Jojo never has more than 5 words in her profile, and NEVER, not once, has a picture.

    These guys are corrupt!!!

    Warn the sheeples.

     
  • At 8:40 PM, Blogger Russian Romance Scammers said…

    It is fairly easy for the dating sites to screen out Romance scammers!
    Most Russians, and many Nigerians, will join a site, and do a bulk email of 'I looked at your profile and decided you are the one for me!' to as many members as possible within hours of joining the dating site.
    Typically, they will do a 'search' of members, and cut and paste the same message into internal personal messages to each member the search spits out.
    An example would be a search of all males, ages 25-65, in the US.
    I've been told by one dating site admin that one Russian romance scammer internal messaged over 600 men on his site in one day, all with the same message...
    "I looked at your profile....."

    The dating sites can easily monitor this, if they want to.
    Many scammers, particularily Russians, are PAID members of the dating sites. This may cut into profits!

     
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  • At 7:07 AM, Blogger Saul M. Detofsky said…

    HELLO ALL GOOD PEOPLE,

    THE LETS MEET TV SHOW HAS THE SAFEST SITE IN THE WORLD. THE TV PLATFORM IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN. MUCH SAFER THAN THIS RISKY INTERNET DOMAIN.
    GO TO THE WEBSITE AND GET FUNDING FOR THE SHOW AND CLAIM THE ONE MILLION DOLLAR REWARD. Please visit my URL: HOT4.TV, CQCQ.ME, LOVE4.TV, 88S.ME, 73S.ME, LMTS.ME WANABEON.TV, FINDLOVEON.TV, EYECANDYON.TV, LOVESON.TV, LMTS.TV, all domains will forward you to: letsmeettvshow.com
    I also own over two hundred Internet domains for most major large countries in the world, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Croatian and Hindi. Let's Meet TV Show has zero competition in the entire world with this new interactive TV mantra. Television still reins supremacy over the Internet and will out trump any website caveat since it is reliable without all the extra costs like monthly Internet service, costly computer, hardware upgrades, PC repairs, high security risks and date rapes and related crimes from meeting Internet strangers and other scams.
    The Lets Meet TV Show would be the first and only interactive social meeting genre network on TV in the world even unparalleled by high tech Internet websites. The TV platform trumps the Internet since it has so many safety features built in that are only inherent only TV, epitome of the public domain.
    Once the Lets Meet TV Show is ready to be aired on TV it will shown on mobile content first one week before it gets aired on TV. It's called First Choice because anyone who has it will get the pick of the litter / cream of the crop as they say. Men can view 1000 women and women can view 1000 Men or one can view both men and women or whatever you program your phone to do. Your company can make more profit on the phones plus make mega millions from The Lets Meet TV Show.
    I am looking for an intelligent company that realizes showcasing people in the public domain is much safer than the Internet and will be much more profitable since most honest people will want to be seen on TV. There are over fifteen hundred social / dating sites on the Internet. Unfortunately for women there isn't one Internet social or dating site does real-time screening for the protection of their clients.
    Federal report says there were 206,884 complaints on Internet fraud last year.
    The number of broken hearts aside, romance fraud costs victims millions of dollars each year. Of her 30,000 members, Sluppick said, 883 people have reported their financial losses. They add up to $8,244,800.05, she said.
    There were 206,884 complaints regarding Internet fraud last year, costing victims more than $239 million, according to the FBI Internet Crime Report.
    Online dating: How to spot duds
    REUTERS -- Aug 22 -- Jane Coloccia, author of "Confessions of an Online Dating Addict: A True Account of Dating and Relating in the Internet Age" says that in her online dating experience married men tend not to post photographs of themselves, often won't give a cellphone number and tend to IM late at night. Jane is also developing an online course on web dating. The growth in the online dating industry has been massive and is expected to continue. Figures Jupiter Research show revenue has almost doubled in the past three years to $1.04 billion in the U.S. alone and is expected to rise 16% a year until 2012.
    Beware of men who don't post photos
    Belinda Goldsmith, Reuters
    SYDNEY -- When Jane Coloccia set out to find her soulmate online she had no idea that eight years and 200 dates later she would end up an expert on the topic, writing a book and setting up a course to teach the pitfalls of web love.
    Coloccia, now 45, was living in Manhattan and struggling to meet single, straight men when one of her friends met a man online and married him. She decided to give it a go.
    Over the next few years, she was swamped with e-mails and instant messages from attentive men, some who told her she was beautiful, others who lied about their age, weight, hair, and marital status, and one who became her therapist.

    Jane Coloccia, author of "Confessions of an Online Dating Addict: A True Account of Dating and Relating in the Internet Age" says that in her online dating experience married men tend not to post photographs of themselves, often won't give a cell phone number and tend to instant message late at night.
    Learning along the way how to spot the liars, Coloccia has written a book, Confessions of an Online Dating Addict: A True Account of Dating and Relating in the Internet Age, tracking the highs, lows -- and addiction -- of online dating. She is also developing an online course on web dating.
    "I would go on three or four dates a week. One Sunday I had three dates -- brunch, lunch and dinner," said Coloccia, who has her own public relations and marketing communications agency.
    "It does get very seductive as it is nice to open up an email and someone to say you are beautiful and they want to meet you."
    The growth in the online dating industry has been massive and is expected to continue. Figures from market analyst Jupiter Research show revenue has almost doubled in the past three years to $1.04 billion in the United States alone and is expected to rise 16 per cent a year until 2012.
    Coloccia said at first, she was nervous about going to meet the men she was talking to online. "My impression before I did this was that the people online were weirdos but that is just not the case," she said.
    But among the good people there were those who were dishonest about themselves and their reason for being online -- as there are always creeps in any bar.
    Coloccia said married men, for example, tended not to post a photograph of themselves, would not give a cellphone number and tended to instant message late at night.
    Some men were just after one-night stands. Others would post old photographs when they were slimmer and had more hair.
    "When I met one man for a date he was bald and fat and his photo must have been from 20 years ago. I told him he looked different and he explained it by saying he was wearing glasses and just had a haircut but that was the end of that," she said.
    First dates were usually over coffee, with dinner only booked once the man proved to be likable. She set geographical limits which knocked out the men in Russia, Malaysia or the West Coast of the United States.
    She advises would-be daters to really question people before they meet and read their profiles well. She says steer clear of free dating sites where married men and ones after sex reside.
    Over 44 % of the Adults in the US are single [one hundred thousand plus]. Let Meet will air worldwide where ever there is electricity, mobile phones and televisions. Let's Meet TV Show will excel beyond your imagination. TVs' aren't even necessary, only mobile phones! Call me (321) 751-6963 24/7.
    Thank you,
    Saul M. Detofsky

    Copyright © 2006 THE LET’S MEET TV SHOW Registered -WGA- West # 1100090

    Fred R. Price Literary-Talent Agency CA state licensed, recognized by -WGA-west 14044 Ventura Blvd. Suite201 Sherman Oaks, CA 91423 (818) 763-6365 and Saul M. Detofsky associate agent in Melbourne, FL (321) 751-6963

    URL:http://letsmeetshow.com –ROMANCE@LETSMEETSHOW.TV
    You Only Get One Chance to Make That First Impression
    Synopsis: Over 100 million are seeking romance on the Internet, looking in the wrong place for the right person. Now finding Mr. Right or Ms. Right can be as easy as turning off your computer and turning on your TV. Let’s Meet (LM) is the only true interactive TV broadcast designed with panache for people you want to have interaction with. LM is the first to showcase men and women together on TV in a public domain on a split picture screen, with a genuine identity and thoroughly checked backgrounds without the high risk of being raped or murdered like on the Internet. TV viewers surf channels with a remote control instead of a PC mouse. Within minutes TV viewers will find that special someone they are attracted to and then meet to search for the inner beauty and integrity of each other maybe finding their sole mate. Nobody wants to be home watching TV alone, seeing others enjoying life. LM isn’t a game or entertainment show just exciting searching for that special someone. It’s like being on the Internet without the cost of a PC, repairs, costly software and Internet fees. Like Ed Mc Man’s Star Search & American Idol LM also showcases the ambitious aspiring artists (wannabes) WB. All LM members will enjoy the benefits of the high visual exposure from our simultaneous Internet broadcast on our own domain website called The Let’s Meet TV Show. All LM / WB members, casting directors, modeling / talent and entertainment agencies worldwide will have access to download b/w or color portraits and video audio clips at the LM website with a password. Our agency is focused on new innovative inroads in marketing.
    Copyright © 2006 Let’s Meet Show Registered - WGA-west # 1100090
    Treatment: Meeting that someone special just got easier and safer too. Are you tired of the nightclub (bar scene), blind dates and all the less than truthful people that you have met on the Internet dating sites? There is an over whelming desire in all of us to seek out another human being since we all have a very strong biological necessity to meet people. “Let’s Meet” (LM) is the most innovative way to meet the most amount people in the shortest of time with creditability. TV viewers will come through word of mouth or just by default when they scan their remote between the long commercials. We will target radio and TV advertising to all conscientious parents and single women. All Parents want their children to be safe regardless of age. The strategy is to seek TV’s enormous platform, 120 million singles in the US. Everybody has a TV but not a PC. Women won’t hesitate to join LM because of all the many safety factors that are built in feature that is meant intimidate to deter crime. LM TV Show is like Americas Most Wanted Show but in reverse. Every woman will be given a special digital cell phone to call her date log which will record the time she leaves her home. Women are required to give the full itinerary of the date along with the contact # and name of the man she is meeting and a scheduled time for her to be home. The special locater cell phones use a digital code transmitter with priority Cat Tracking Software that only the FBI, local and state police have. The phone sends a digital signal and uses GPS tracking to cell towers to locate the exact location of a woman when she hasn’t reported back from a date on time. CAN YOU PUT A PRICE ON ONE’S SAFETY? All members will have a professional beauty make-over and photography in black tie evening attire against a white background. The TV audience will have their eyes glued to the television looking at eye candy presentation while enjoying beautiful romantic instrumental music like Moon River, Autumn Leaves, Misty, Theme from Summer Place and Days of Wine and Roses while enjoying their favorite beverage.

     
  • At 10:02 PM, Blogger University said…

    This is a great reading. Thanks for the post. we have audience that like to read this kind of posts. we will add this to our site. Thanking you. dating website

     
  • At 1:39 AM, Blogger Aleina said…

    If you are still a singles and wants to mingle with your friend or of your GF or BF than now you will not be singles any more. Among completelly free online dating sites its a very much reliable and good dating site for singles where they can find a dating partner from their local region through out the glob.

     
  • At 1:06 AM, Blogger Dating said…

    Useful article, thanks for it!
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  • At 2:57 AM, Blogger Ajinkya said…

    If you're looking for online dating services, you've come to the right place. No longer do you have to waste your time joining dating service after dating service. So click here for a comprehensive listing of online dating services.

     
  • At 10:22 PM, Blogger TheRelationshipcompany.com said…

    Wow! cool article......

     
  • At 12:42 AM, Blogger Sonia said…

    Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    Safe Dating Site

     

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