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The perpetrators may be working out of call centers in West Africa, wooing four or five people at a time.Or it could be some dude at a Starbucks texting victims on his cellphone, or a pajama-clad woman in her apartment sending bogus love bombs from her laptop.They may assume the identity of actual soldiers deployed overseas or pretend to be engineers working on projects in far-flung locales. “They are able to manipulate the victim into believing they have found their one true soul mate.”Victims are as likely to be men as women, young, old or middle-aged, gay or straight, highly or poorly educated.Scammers have also been known to pose as university professors, clergy members, doctors, chefs, swimsuit models, waitresses, nurses and librarians.“They have a canny ability to mirror what the victim seems to need and to create a sense of intimacy very quickly,” said Debbie Deem, a victim specialist at the F. After a few days, weeks or even months of romantic and sometimes hotly erotic back-and-forth via email, text or Skype, come the requests for money.Moreover, she said, romantic love can produce feelings of euphoria similar to the effects of cocaine or heroin, which explains why otherwise intelligent and accomplished people do irrational things to get a fix.Of course, people have always been fools for love — it’s just that the global reach and altered reality of the Internet increases the risk and can make the emotional and financial damage more severe.“I don’t think there is a general understanding of how much of this romance scam stuff is out there, how it works and what the consequences are,” said Steven Baker, director of the Midwest region of the Federal Trade Commission.
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“It’s staggering how many people fall for it.”Scammers typically create fake profiles on dating sites and apps like Match.com, Ok Cupid, e Harmony, Grindr and Tinder using pictures of attractive men and women — often real people whose identities they’ve filched off Facebook, Instagram or other social media sites.