Internet Romance Scams Cost Victims $50 Million in 2011

H. Scott English

Heartless internet scammers have cost lonely and vulnerable online daters more than $50 million dollars in 2011. To make matters worse it is usually the most vulnerable among us who fall for these scams. The elderly, the disabled, recent widowers and divorcees are often the targets.

Internet romance scams are growing in volume and intensity according to a new report from the Internet Crime Complaint Center

The center received 314,246 complaints last year, 5,600 of which were related to romance scams. The price tag for the average victim was $8,900 adding up to the $50 million dollars.

What does a person have to do to fall victim to one of these scams?

According to the report the scammers troll through as many venues for finding victims as they can. Dating sites, chat rooms and social media sites top the list. The scammers use a well rehearsed and practiced script to pull in the victims and even send them gifts.

As John Breyault, director of the National Consumers League's fraud center, explained to the Washington Examiner,

"Because they have developed a relationship, often romantic, with their victim, there's more trust there."

FBI spokeswoman Jenny Shearer said that the sums these scammers can get out of a single victim are high because they get the victims to pay for expensive medical procedures and travel.

Huffington Post blogger and cancer survivor Dori Hartley wrote of experiencing an online romance scam first-hand in much this same way. she wrote on a blog for the Post that for five years she believed she was in a relationship with someone who had cancer.

Hartley wrote on the Huffington Post,

"So, how do stupid things like this happen to smart people like me?. Desperate loneliness is a good place to start -- that, and a willingness to believe in a fantasy. After all, the heart wants what the heart wants, and I wanted love. Or maybe it's just impossible to think that anyone would lie about having cancer -- especially to a survivor."