These days it seems that everyone is online dating or using a social networking site. Sites like Match.com and Facebook have millions of members worldwide, and there are countless others. More people are connecting online, and finding relationships and romance on the internet than ever before. There are more than just honest people among the users, however. Each year the FBI receives more complaints about online dating scams, and 2010 was no exception. According to three FBI field offices contacted for this article, scams from online dating and social networking sites are booming. Philippines private detectives familiar with the cases estimate the scams are growing at a rate of 20 percent per year. Site members are advised to proceed with caution.
The economy in the Philippines continues to struggle, and the country remains a nation with high levels of corruption, and limit opportunity. Law enforcement agencies in the Philippines such as the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation), PNP (Philippines National Police) and other agencies stress they are already overwhelmed with criminal cases and investigations. Agents must prioritize their cases, and unfortunately, romance scams and online dating fraud usually fall close to last on the list. Making matters more complicated, it can be difficult and costly for a foreigner to file a criminal case in the Philippines. Because online dating site and other accounts are often opened using a false name, and money transfers can be picked up with a fake ID or by a criminal accomplice, such cases can be difficult to prosecute.
Many US, Canadian, UK and Australian victims ask why more can't be done to prevent these types of romance scams, marriage fraud, and other online dating scams. A lack of law and order is understandable in the Philippines, but many citizens in the developed world demand something to be done. Agents at a Florida FBI field office say it can be frustrating to hear of the damage done in these cases, and it's not easy to explain to victims that not much can be done. Prosecuting criminals across country borders is a difficult process, no matter what the crime. Scams and fraud via the internet are especially challenging, since in most cases, the identity and/or location of the criminal may be unknown. Philippines private investigators say never to send money to anyone who is not known personally, and be skeptical of anyone you have met via the internet. Never reveal your personal data, such as date of birth, credit card information, address, and other senstitive data to an individual over the internet.
Because prosecuting these criminals is such a difficult and time consuming process, law enforcement and private investigators agree, the safest bet is prevention. Be skeptical. Be aware of the high risk for dating scams and other fraud in the Philippines. Know that no internet dating or social networking website is immune from fraud and scams. There is simply no effective way to screen the millions of members, so there are criminals among the users. If you feel you have potential for a real relationship, get a Philippines background check with a professional and reputable investigation firm such as Philippine PI™. Experts warn the risk is too high to ignore, and extra caution is advised.
Best of luck,
© 2011 A. Hathaway