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Yahoo Personals / by scammers for scammers

1 San Francisco, CA, United States

I'll admit I didn't do my homework when I signed up with Yahoo Personals for a 3-month subscription. Probably 80% of the men who contacted me were romance scammers from West Africa. They post fake profiles - complete with fake photos - on Yahoo Personals, which, as far as I've been able to learn, is the only major online dating service that doesn't ban West African IP addresses to protect its users from these scammers. When I used Yahoo's "handy" fraud reporting system to alert them to the fake profiles of certain users, I never heard anything back. Most of the profiles of users I reported - who I KNOW to be fake - are still up and running. By failing to act aggressively to protect their users from these scammers, Yahoo Personals in effect encourages online scamming.

After learning about romance scamming, I used the complaint link to tell Yahoo that I was unhappy with my subscription, I didn't want to renew, and that I was having difficulty figuring out how to cancel the service. Still nothing. Last week, I was informed by PayPal of a $60 charge from Yahoo to renew my subscription. I complained to both Yahoo and PayPal about this unauthorized charge. I never heard back from Yahoo, but PayPal contacted me to decline my request to reverse the charges - but at least they told me how cancel the automated link Yahoo established with PayPal for ongoing charges.

The first romance scammer that contacted me claimed to be an American widower whose permanent residence is in New Jersey, and who is currently working in the construction industry in Nigeria. He had a nice picture and was very articulate. I never lost any money to this guy, but I lost the time I wasted chatting with him. One night, after a few weeks of chatting through Yahoo Messenger, he asked me for my credit card number for what he claimed was a $10 online purchase. His explanation of why his own credit card wouldn't work was wonky, so I started Googling terms like "Nigeria personals" and "romance scam." I got so many hits it was mind boggling. One website was especially helpful, http://www.romancescam.com. They have a database of known scammers, a collection of the fake photos used by the scammers, and a blog where users share their horror stories. This website also has links to a SAFE AND FREE ONLINE DATING WEBSITE, http://www.datingnmore.com/. I also learned about an online "sport" called "scam baiting, " which endeavors to turn the tables on the scammers. You can find info on this at http://www.419eater.com/ or http://www.thescambaiter.com/. I also learned enough Nigerian creole words online to completely confuse the scammer I mentioned earlier. During a chat session, I mentioned that I had a dog. Of course, being the gallant gentleman, he asked my dog's name. I answered "Mugu, " which is the Nigerian slang word for "big idiot, " which is how they refer to a person they're scamming. They call themselves "guymen" (the singular is "guyman"). Online scamming is considered a worthy profession in Nigeria and a couple of other West African countries. It's also prevalent in Russia and Malaysia.

If you're thinking of joining an online dating service, please educate yourself about romance scams. And stay away from Yahoo Personals - they are as bad as the scammers they harbor.

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