Valentine’s Day Scams: All in the Name of Love


Courtney Babin
ACFE Communications Coordinator

Let’s be honest, February might as well belong to Hallmark. It’s the season of professed love as cards, flowers and teddy bears with chocolates are stocked in the shelves at your local stores. Subliminal pink and red palettes remind you to make reservations and order long-stem roses as Valentine’s Day looms around the corner. In the spirit of the holiday, let’s all be careful not to get swept off our feet by possible romance scams, especially in the world of online dating.

While dating websites are full of honest people wanting to find love, these sites can be brimming with cons that only pine after your hard-earned cash. Here are a few scams that can turn your ideal relationship into a romantic blunder:

Automated Russian dating bots
KrebsonSecurity recently reported that there are romance scam packages that cybercriminals can purchase to lure men into believing they are dating a Russian woman via email spam or dating websites. These packages include emails from the woman’s mother, pre-fabricated excuses for not talking on the phone, and even crooked call centers that employ men and women con artists who speak a variety of languages.

Nigerian Yahoo Boys
Yahoo Boys are Nigerian men who specialize in cybercrime using multiple cons including romance scams. In October, a story was released of a woman who had been contacted via Facebook, romantically scammed and subsequently used as a money mule for the Yahoo Boys all while believing she was assisting a man she was going to marry. She now resides in prison for money laundering.

Curve ball: Old-fashioned con
Romance fraud is not just perpetrated by long-distance cyber scammers that appear with open hearts (and pockets) and disappear without a trace. While in-person romance scams are not as popular as online scams, there are still old-fashioned conmen and women who would love to sweep you off your feet. For example, doctor Paolo Macchiarini. He was a famous surgeon who wooed an NBC producer while filming a documentary about his work. They took lavish vacations on his dime and eventually became engaged. He was wealthy, generous and a public figure but he still defrauded his fiancée (and the public). He lied about his marriage, his connections, his status with notable figures and even his surgical credentials.

During this season of love, don’t let your wallet and heart get stolen in a Valentine’s Day scam. There are common tell-tale signs that may clue you in on whether your new special someone is actually a smart scammer. Find more information here: Fraud-Magazine,,, and