Each month, thousands of people—men and women—get caught in similar traps, Sid says, and the scammers know how to work their victims. "From the outside you may say, 'How did she fall for that?' But you heard Julia. She was being wooed every day—e-mails before work, after work. [She] probably expressed that she liked children. He has an orphanage," Sid says.
Sid says the scam artists often pose as rich American or British businessmen living overseas who charm their victims, gain their trust and then have some sort of financial need—often money for surgery or passport cash to fly to the United States and get married. He says the con artists claim to be paid in U.S. postal money orders and ask the victims to cash them and wire over the cash. "Once you send the money, you don't hear from them. Or they're brazen enough to actually call you and say, 'I scammed you,'" Sid says.
Julia says the victims can be any age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation, and scam artists target them in many different venues—from dating websites to gaming chat rooms. According to Sid, the FBI estimates that about half the victims of these kinds of scams are male. They are oftentimes conned by men posing as female Russian models.