Date Scam

I would like to introduce you to another scam fighting site, DateScam.co.uk, and probably the best way to do so is to share the story from their About Us page.

As an “almost” victim of an online dating scam, TWICE, I came across so many difficulties trying to find the information and resources to deal with this. There is a lot of information out there that gives advice on how to prevent yourself from becoming a victim of a scam and how to spot a potential scam etc etc.

There is information about what to do in the event that you have been scammed. But dating scams are a VERY PERSONAL ISSUE, and one that many people may feel too embarrassed to talk about, even to their family and friends.
Many of the “scam/fraud information sites” are American and you only find out when you have spent ages reading through the “blurb” that they are of no use to you.

Many sites charge ASTRONOMICAL FEES to do background checks on people. You can do this yourself to a point, if you HAVE THE TIME and know where to look! But how can you check on someone using a false name, or address, or phone number?

The process is such a long winded one , and unless you are committed to spending the time researching, the chances are that you will give up!

I tried a variety of tactics using google and Bing etc. I typed in dating scam, Internet dating scam, online dating scams, how do I know if I’ve been scammed? and combinations of all of those. I got really confused and spent hours trawling online scam sites. With all of these difficulties there wasn’t really on particular site that could give me the answers I needed.

So this website has been created to give support and help to those who have found themselves at the hands of a dating scammer, and to remove endless hours hitting your head against a brick wall.

There are currently 4 researchers who work at DateScam.co.uk, and they have ALL been victims of online dating scams at one time or another and they want to help to stamp out the online dating scam, or at least make a dent in it.

Romance Scams

Romance Scams, also referred to at Sweetheart Scams, Dating Scams or Love Scams, usually begin on a legitimate dating website or throughonline classified ads looking to meet people. In theses scams, the scammer plays on the target’s emotions. They know that they are looking for love or a strong relationship, so they use all of the right words to convince the target that they truly care for them. Many of the scammers will use pictures found on others profiles or even modeling sites as their profile. They will also use a variety of fake names, and some scammers could be operating several “profiles” and names at once. This is why the name of the person or what they look like is not a good way to determine if they are a scammer or not. It is the situation, not the name that matters.

 

 

Once they believe that the target is emotionally connected to them, they will tell them that they need money for some reason . . . they were in an accident and have medical and legal fees to pay or simply to pay for a plane ticket so that they finally meet in person. The scammer will ask the target to wire them money, and sometimes will even promise to pay it back as soon as possible. Since the target is emotionallyinvested in this relationship they want to do whatever they can to helpout this person that they love.

The websites Cyber Love Illusions and CyberPaths tell the stories of these scams.

You can also read more at http://scamvictimsunited.com/Romance.htm

Why do scammers love Craigslist?

Many websites have become infested with scammers, but Craigslist seems to be one of the places that the scammers really love to hang out. Why is that?

Variety of categories – In the past, when a scammer wanted to find a victim for their overpayment scams they had to go to a website were people were selling items, usually of large value. If they wanted to find a victim for an employment scam, they had to go to a site where people were posting their resumes. If they wanted to find a victim for a romance or dating scam, they would have to go to a dating website. If you wanted to find a victim for renter or roommate scam, you had to go to a site where people were posting housing information. With Craigslist, you can find all of those people in the different categories on the same site.

Includes the entire country – There are other classified ad sites that would have the same variety of categories that Craigslist has, but they are usually for a certain geographic location. If the scammer wants to try and find more victims, they would have to go to another classified ad site that is targeted towards another geographic location. With Craigslist all the scammer has to do is click on a new city and state for their search location and they have a entirely different group of victims to try and bring into their scam.

It’s free – Not only is Craigslist free for people to post or creating listings, but it is also free to people looking at those listings. This works to the scammer’s advantage. If the scammer is the one placing the listing, for a Secret Shopper job for example, they do not have to pay anything to place that advertisement. Many of the sites that require you to pay to post have a lower number of scams posted simply due to the fact that the scammer is there to make money, and not to spend it. It works the other way too . . . if the scammer is the one searching the posted ads for their next victim, they do not have to pay anything to have access to those listings.

Craigslist does have warning information on their site, and I think that some of their warnings should hold true if you are using their site or another classified ad site.

Deal with local buyers and sellers. If you sell your item and you need to have it shipped someplace you are taking a greater risk. If you deal locally, you can arrange to meet the person face to face to exchange money and the item for sale.

Never wire funds to someone you only know via email conversations. Scammers use services like Western Union and MoneyGram in their scams because they know that once the money is wired off and picked up on the other end there is no way to recover the money. Also, since they are overseas, our law enforcement in the United States cannot just go and pick them up for taking your money. It becomes an issue for the government and law enforcement in the country that they live in. This all goes back to jurisdiction, which we talked about in the past, and you can review here.

One thing that I think that Craigslist could add to their posted warning is that a cashier’s check could take 10 business days or more to go through the clearing process. Just because you take the check to the bank and they tell you that it has cleared, or that it will be verified as good in 24 hours does not mean that the bank knows for sure that this check was written on a good account and has the funds in that account to cover the check. This is the information that is missing from so many of the current internet scam warnings, but is also the piece of information that could save so many scam victims. So why don’t the places that post the warnings understand this and include this information? Personally, I feel it is because they are thinking as a “business” and not as a scam victims, and that is one thing that I can do since I have been there myself.

Had we known back in October of 2002 that the check could take up to 10 business days to go through the entire clearing process and that until that happened we would be liable for the entire amount of the check, then there is no way we would have wired any money off any sooner than 10 business days . . . actually, my husband and I had promised each other that what ever amount of time the bank said to wait to be safe we were going to double to be extra safe, so like I said, if they would have been honest with us there is no way we would have become scam victims.

Books on scams

I have made a list of great books on the topic of scams.  You can check out the list here.

http://astore.amazon.com/scamvictimsun-20

 
Shawn Mosch
Co-Founder of ScamVictimsUnited.com
There is strength in numbers!

Find us on Twitter, Facebook and more through
http://www.retaggr.com/page/ShawnMosch

Internet Crime On The Rise

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released it’s 2008 Internet Crime Report today.  You can view report in full by going to http://www.fbi.gov/page2/march09/internet_033009.html

There was a 33% increase in complaints in 2008 over 2007, with an increase of $25 million lost.  Just think, if more could have been done to educate people about scams and warn them before they became victims, that is money that those people would still have in their pockets.

With the economy in the state that it is, we need to do EVERYTHING we can to protect the money that we have.  One way to do that would be to increase scam awareness with signs in the post offices, banks, Western Union and MoneyGram locations.  PSA would also do a lot to get the word out to the masses.

Open letter to Oprah

Here is a letter that I plan to send to Oprah about her recent show on scams.

——————–

My name is Shawn Mosch, and in 2002 my husband and I became victims of a counterfeit cashier’s check scam while selling a car online.  At first we were embarrassed and felt stupid.  How could we fall for a scam?  But we soon realized that the most stupid thing that we did was to trust our bank when they told us that the check had cleared and the money was safe to use.

 

We knew right away that we needed to do something to educate others about this scam, so we started the website ScamVictimsUnited.com.  In the first two years of operation, we helped to stop over 2 million dollars from going into these scams.  Through our message board we have offered support to other victims, and have helped to save thousands of people from becoming scam victims.  Becoming a scam victim puts you on an emotional and financial rollercoaster, and it has been very rewarding to know that we have helped to save so many people from going through this. 

 

We have been very vocal over the years, through our website, the media and working with other crime fighting agencies.  In June 2007, Shawn had the honor of speaking at the National Center for Victims of Crime Annual Conference in Washington D.C.  This is why we were so excited to hear that the Oprah show would be focusing on these scams in the December 4th show. 

 

We were glad to see that the show focused on more than just the 419/Advance Fee Scams which are the ones that people most commonly think of when speaking of scams.  In so many of the popular scams out there right now the scammer will send a counterfeit check . . . weather it is for an item that you are selling online, deposit on an apartment in the renter scam, the first check in the lottery scam, or your payroll check in the work from home/secret shopper scams . . . the counterfeit check is a common thread between all of theses scams. 

 

Many of the scam victims will do all of the right things, like some of the people on your show.  Since they do not know the person that they are getting the check from they will take the check to the bank and ask questions, but the problem is that often the bank employees will give the wrong answers.  Bank employees will tell people that the check has cleared or that funds are available, which gives people the false sense of security that the money is good for them to use.  That is why I was so glad to hear Sid Kirchheimer say on your show that people needed to wait until the check is money is collected on the check, not just “cleared” or “available”.  I feel that knowing this one piece of information could be the most important thing to help save people from becoming victims of these scams.  We would like to see this information posted at all bank teller locations so that all customers have all of the facts that they need.  We are also encouraging businesses like Western Union and Money Gram to post warnings at all of their locations which will bring attention to these scams when people are coming in to wire money.  Currently, there are warnings online, but these only help the people that go online and look for them.  If you do not know that the situation that you are entering into is a scam, it is not likely that you would go to the Western Union or Money Gram website and read their Customer Protection section before you go into one of their actual locations to make the wire transfer.  The information would be more helpful if it was available at the store locations.

 

Thank you so much for your show on scams, and I sincerely hope that you continue to do more shows on this topic.  These con men are good at what they do, and every day they are coming up with new scams or new twists on old scams, so there is always something new to talk about on this topic.  Education is the key to fighting these scams . . . continue to educate us all!

Site mentioned on Oprah

I just watched the Oprah show from the other day, and they did a really good job covering the topic.  They told about a romance scam site (actually, it is one that I have been to before and have chatted with members from there over the years) and they mentioned how this site has a database of scammers names and you can search them.  Here is the link if anyone is looking for it.

http://www.romancescam.com/album/search.php

Now, if you search out that database and you do not find the name of the person you are in contact with, that does not mean that they are not a scammer . . . it could just mean that their name is not on the list yet.  I would also suggest doing a google search of the scammer’s name, email address or phone number.

We will chat more about the Oprah show later.