This is a Public Service Announcement:
Ladies, ladies, ladies! And gentlemen, too! Please be cautious online! You may not think you would be a target of online dating scammers because you aren't a member of typical online dating sites. Let me tell you, that doesn't matter. Online dating scammers can find and prey on unwitting victims anywhere these days.
There are many variations, but here's the basic scenario:
Woman is a member of several social networking sites. Man she doesn't know start sending her friend requests or private message.
Red Flag Warning: For reasons I'm not certain of, they tend to have two first names. Examples: Mark Paul, Timothy Randall, William John.
Woman asks "do I know you?" He responds something to the tune of, "I am Riley William, a contractor with the United Nations on a peace keeping mission in Syria. I am from Georgia Atlanta. I saw your beautiful profile picture and was overwhelmed by your beauty."
Red Flag Warning: They lay it on pretty thick as far as how enraptured they are with you. These guys won't waste any time getting down to business. They think they're quite charming.
If the woman decides to continue the conversation, the scammer may ask her to switch to a different platform such as Skype or Google Hangouts. I've yet to figure out exactly what their angle is with this. They will say it's more secure for them, or something like that.
Over time, scammer will want to come visit you. He will need you to front the money for his tickets for some such reason. He doesn't have access to his account overseas or what have you.
Scammers have gone so far as to make their victims think they are getting married. They'll need money sent to this person (other scammer) or that (yet another scammer) for some paperwork they need to request leave from their superior.
Hot tip: Don't feed the trolls! You may think you're just toying with them back, keeping the scammer from sucking in some other innocent victim. It's not worth it. Who knows what kind of spyware they could be sending you, if you do decide to swap emails with them.
Relationship scammers are very slick! Most often they steal pictures from yet another unsuspecting victim online. They seem to favor people in the military for pilfering pics from.
This scam goes BOTH ways: men and women. Gentlemen, forgive me for saying this, but if some smokin' hot chick drops seemingly out of the SKY, claiming to be in love with you...refer to the old adage "If it's too good to be true, it probably is."
I'm all for charity and helping people out who are down on their luck. Odds are there are plenty of legit people in your circle that you could help out. Don't get suckered in trying to help a stranger, just because they claim to be in love with you.
Red Flag Warning: Even if your beloved stranger offers to send you a money order for you to cash out and do some kind of leg work for them, DO NOT FALL FOR IT! Trust me, it will not end well.
If you really do need a date, ask your friends and family to point you in the direction of someone new. It's best to date someone that already knows your friends or family because they can vouch for them. Plus, they'll be more likely to have an idea about who you might be compatible with.