Is a local newspaper advertisement an old fashioned bait and switch scam?
In Thursday's Palm Beach Post, someone paid for space to post this picture of a woman, "looking for a decent man to marry."
It's what the ad doesn't say that has a security expert warning everyone to think twice about replying to the ad.
"Most scammers are looking for desperation," said Alan Crowetz, WPTV's Internet Security expert with Infostream. "In this case, they're taking advantage of the pressure to find somebody.. or there's someone out there."
The ad goes on to ask for "Only sincere persons --- men age 35 to 75 -- with view to marry" to respond.
It didn't take us long to find a duplicate ad for a man seeking woman, which ran in two local papers.
Crowetz said anyone who answers looking for love might get something else. The ads are most likely a scam.
"As soon as you see something like this there's just red flags going off left and right," he said. "And yet, we know people fall for this stuff all the time."
The ad -- featuring a picture of an attractive woman -- asks for respondents to email "SafiaFarkash27@gmail.com". WPTV sent an email to the person but got no response.
While searching through phone books and databases, we found no one with that name in Florida or the United States. However, we did discover that's the name of the wife of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi
At our request, Crowetz looked for and found another ad for a man seeking a wife -- posted in two local papers.
The wording is exactly the same.
"If something works, they replicate it and they use it over and over again," said Crowetz.
The ad had a Miami area code phone number. We called it and a man with a thick accent answered calling himself "Nicole Davis". That matches the email on the ad.
"Probably the same person, or same organization, group of people," said Crowetz.
He pointed out the ads ask for a picture and full biography necessary for ripping off someone's identity.
"The more you know about your target, the more you can take advantage of them," he said. "With a photo and a biography, I can create a fake driver's license. I can create a passport. I can apply for an untold number of financial things."
Crowetz says appearing in reputable newspapers might make the ad seem safe.
"One key part of any scam is some element of validity to it," he said.
The Palm Beach Post advertising department said it had no idea the ad could be questionable. The Post said this is the first time in a long time that the newspaper has run an ad like this. The paper would not reveal details on who placed the ads due to its confidentiality policy.
"The time it would take to investigate every ad, they'd be losing money like crazy on every ad," said Crowetz.
Crowetz advises looking for love somewhere else. He compares the Internet to a shady bar and in this case, a lesson to be learned.
"With a bunch of suspect characters in there, you wouldn't share personal information, you wouldn't give them things, you wouldn't invite them home or give them your biography and picture. And yet, people do that all the time on the internet," he said. "This person. They're fishing. They have a line in the water right now and they're getting bites. They're gonna go through those and find out which ones are legit, which ones are good targets."
Infostream has a free Internet safety checklist to use. Click here to learn more.