A romance scam is a confidence trick involving feigned romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudulent acts may involve access to the victims' money, bank accounts, credit cards, passports, e-mail accounts, and/or national identification numbers or by getting the victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.
Stolen Images 
Scammers post profiles, using stolen photographs of attractive women (or men), asking for men (or women) to contact them. Letters are exchanged between the scammer and victim until the scammer feels they have groomed the victim enough to ask for money. This might be for requests for airplane tickets, medical expenses, education expenses etc. There is usually the promise that the fictitious character will one day join the victim in the victim's country. The scam usually ends when the victim realizes they are being scammed and/or stops sending money. Victims can be highly traumatized by this and are often very embarrassed and ashamed when they learn they have become a victim of a scam and that the romance is a farce.
The Internet 
Scammers post profiles on dating websites to groom new victims. Upon finding victims, scammers lure them to more private means of communication, (such as providing an e-mail address) to allow for fraud to occur.
Researchers have found that victims feel that there is an equal balance of self-disclosures (Whitty & Buchanan, in press).http://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/media/research/research-groups/digital-identities-research-group/online-dating-romance-scam-project.
Common variations 
Narratives used to extract money from the victims of romantic scams include the following: 1 The scammer says their boss paid them in postal money orders. The scammer wants the mark to cash the money orders, and then wire money to the scammer. The forged money orders leave the banks to incur debts against the victims.
- The scammer says they need the mark to send money to pay for a passport.
- The scammer says they require money for flights to the victim's country because of being left there by a step-parent, or husband/wife, or because they are just tired of living in their country and somehow never comes, or says that they are being held against their will by immigration authorities, who demand bribes.
- The scammer says they are being held against their will for failure to pay a bill or requires money for hospital bills.
- The scammer says they need the money to pay for the phone bills in order to continue communicating with the victim.
- The scammer says they need the money for their or their parents' urgent medical treatment.
- The scammer says they need the money to successfully graduate before they can visit the victim.
- The scammer offers a job, often to people in a poor country, on payment of a registration fee. These are particularly common at African dating sites.Nanny Scam Example - August 2010
- A new variation is where the scammer contacts the victim claiming to be a model working in the victim's city for only a couple of weeks and found the victim on the "yahoo directory". The scammer will invite the victim into a chat session, where a rapport is built, and pictures are given - usually of a pornographic nature. The scammer will then ask if the victim wants to meet, and when the victim says yes, he is told that he will need to obtain a "security ID pass", or in at least one specific case, an "EMP", or "Exclusive Model Pass". This involves logging onto a number of webcam sites, all of which require credit card information. The ID code is not sent, and the victim is then told he can get one by sending money ($200 - $500) to the models' "manager" in the Philippines. When the victim questions this, the scammer will try to guilt the victim, saying "I guess you don't really want to meet", "I'm sorry you don't trust me", and many other things to keep the victim on the hook.
- The scammer actually is employed directly or indirectly by a website, with a share of the victim's member or usage fees passed on to the victim
Another variation is the scammer has a need to marry in order to inherit millions of dollars of gold left by a father/uncle/grandfather. The young woman will contact a victim and tell them of their plight of not being able to remove the gold from their country due to being unable to pay the duty/marriage taxes. The woman will be unable to inherit the fortune until she gets married. The marriage being a prequiste of the father/uncle/grandfather's will. The scammer keeps the victim believing that they are sincere, until they are able to build up enough rapport to ask for thousands of dollars to help bring the gold into the victim's country. The scammer will offer to fly to the victim's country to prove that they are a real person. The victim will send money for the flight. However when the victim goes to meet the scammer they never show up. The victim contacts the scammer to ask what happened. The scammer will provide an excuse such as not being able to get an exit visa, or illness of themselves or a family member. Scammers are very adept at knowing how to "play" their victims - sending love poems, sex games in emails, building up a "loving relationship" with many promises of "one day we will be married". Often photos of unknown African actresses will be used to lure the victim into believing they are talking to that person. Victims may be invited to travel to the scammer's country; in some cases the victims arrive with asked-for gift money for family members or bribes for corrupt officials, and then they are beaten and robbed or murdered.
Cultural references 
- The movie Raskenstam (1983) is based on a true story about a man who seduced over 100 women and convinced many to support his various projects financially. He usually used newspaper contact ads, often with the headline "Sun and spring", which has become an idiomatic expression in Sweden.
See also 
- "Online Romance Scams Continue To Grow," KMBC
- "Seduced into scams: Online lovers often duped," MSNBC. 1.
- "International Financial Scams – Internet Dating, Inheritance, Work Permits, Overpayment, and Money-Laundering," United States Department of State
- "ROMANCE SCAMS," US Diplomatic Mission in Ghana
- "Russian women scams - and how to avoid them". Moscow Russia Insider's guide.