Nigerian Scammers Target SoFla Web Daters

Swindlers using fake dating profiles to cash in

Nigerian money scams have become the oldest trick on the internet, but it appears the scammers are no longer just targeting your pocketbook, they're also after your heart.

US Postal Inspectors arrested 16 people and seized millions of dollars in Nigeria in a widespread con targeting Internet dating sites.

And several South Floridians may have been duped by the cold-hearted hustlers.

The scammers target members of dating sites like, setting up fake profiles with fake photos. In one case, a South Florida man received an e-mail from a woman named Jean Hillson, including a photo and bio.  The man and Hillson established a cyberspace relationship, even though Hillson is stuck in Nigeria.

Before long Hillson was asking the man for money to get back to Florida, $2,200 and they can be together. "Honey, I am having problems getting back home," reads one e-mail. "Hi baby, how soon can you have it sent?" reads another.

Hillson doesn't exist of course, but by the time that's established, the vulnerable mark is out a couple grand.

South Floridian Annette Scardina nearly fell into the trap.

"First they reel you in, it's something emotional," Scardina said.

Scardina thought she was e-mailing with a potential boyfriend, until she realized a friend of hers had already sent what she thought was plane fare to a scammer in Nigeria.

"It was the same screen name and the same picture, so it was exactly the same person she was emotionally involved with," said Scardina, who added that the ordeal scared her away from internet dating. "I can meet enough nuts all by myself."

Though dating websites generally include a disclaimer warning of sending money to people they meet online, the scams will continue.

"You've gotta trust the Internet as far as you can throw it," said Postal Inspector Blad Rojo. "It's right there, but you can't see who's on the other end, it could be anybody."

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