*Names have been changed to protect identities En español She wrote him first. In the summer, when the trees leafed out, you couldn't even see the road or the neighbors. She'd grown up here, in a conservative pocket of Virginia. When it came to meeting new people, however, her choices were limited. The holidays were coming, and she didn't want to face them alone.A short message sent on a Thursday evening in early December 2013, under the subject line: Match? She signed up for a six-month subscription to Match.com, the largest and one of the oldest dating services on the Web.Duane suggested they both fill out questionnaires listing not only their favorite foods and hobbies but also personality quirks and financial status. An impostor poses as a suitor, lures the victim into a romance, then loots his or her finances.He also sent her a link to a song, pop star Marc Anthony's "I Need You." "It holds a message in it," he told her, "a message that delivers the exact way i feel for you." Amy clicked on the link to the song, a torrid ballad that ends with the singer begging his lover to marry him. In pre-digital times, romance scammers found their prey in the back pages of magazines, where fake personal ads snared vulnerable lonely hearts.But much of the note consisted of flirty jokes ("If I could be bottled I would be called 'eau de enigma' ") and a detailed imaginary description of their first meeting: It's 11 am when we arrive at the restaurant for brunch.
It would have been easy to burnish the truth, but she presented herself honestly, from her age (57) and hobbies ("dancing, rock collecting") to her financial status ("self sufficient").But as financial crimes go, the love con was a rare breed, too time- and labor-intensive to carry out in large numbers.It could take months or years of dedicated persuasion to pull off a single sting. Technology has streamlined communication, given scammers powerful new tools of deceit and opened up a vast pool of potential victims.The mainstreaming of online dating is a revolution in progress, one that's blurring the boundaries between "real" and online relationships.(AARP has joined this revolution, partnering with the online dating service How About We to launch AARP Dating in December 2012.) But the online-dating boom has also fueled an invisible epidemic.