A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigned romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud.
Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victims' money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, or national identification numbers or by getting the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.
Victims—predominantly older widowed or divorced women targeted by criminal groups usually from Nigeria—are, for the most part, computer literate and educated. And con artists know exactly how to exploit that vulnerability because potential victims freely post details about their lives and personalities on dating and social media sites.
Trolling for victims online “is like throwing a fishing line,” said Special Agent Christine Beining, a veteran financial fraud investigator in the FBI’s Houston Division who has seen a substantial increase in the number of romance scam cases.
Upon finding victims, scammers lure them to more private means of communication, (such as providing an e-mail address) to allow for fraud to occur.