The Secret Service categorizes all threats, online and offline alike, into one of three categories. Class 3 threats are considered the most serious, and require agents to interview the individual who issued the threat and any acquaintances to determine whether that person really has the capability to carry out the threat. Class 2 threats are considered to be serious but issued by people incapable of actually follow up on their intentions, either because they are in jail or located at a great distance from the president. And Class 1 threats are those that may seem serious at first, but are determined not to be. The overall number of threats directed at the first family that require investigation has stayed relatively steady at about 10 per day — except for the period when Obama was first elected, when the Secret Service had to follow up on roughly 50 threats per day. "That includes threats on Twitter," says Ronald Kessler, author of In the President's Secret Service. "It makes no difference to [the Secret Service] how a threat is communicated. They can't take that chance of assuming that because it's on Twitter it's less serious."
According to the Times internet scammers are targeting women in their 50s and 60s, often retired and living alone, who say that the email and phone wooing forms a bond that may not be physical but that is intense and enveloping. Between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2014, nearly 6,000 people registered complaints of such confidence fraud with losses of $82.3 million, according to the federal Internet Crime Complaint Center. Older people are ideal targets because they often have accumulated savings over a lifetime, own their homes and are susceptible to being deceived by someone intent on fraud. The digital version of the romance con is now sufficiently widespread that AARP's Fraud Watch Network has urged online dating sites to institute more safeguards to protect against such fraud. The AARP network recommends that dating site members use Google's "search by image" to see if the suitor's picture appears on other sites with different names. If an email from "a potential suitor seems suspicious, cut and paste it into Google and see if the words pop up on any romance scam sites," the network advised. The website romancescams.org lists red flags to look for to identify such predators, who urgently appeal to victims for money to cover financial setbacks like unexpected fines, money lost to robbery or unpaid wages. Most victims say they are embarrassed to admit what happened, and they fear that revealing it will bring derision from their family and friends, who will question their judgment and even their ability to handle their own financial affairs."It makes me sound so stupid, but he would be calling me in the evening and at night. It felt so real. We had plans to go to the Bahamas and to Bermuda together," says Louise Brown. "When I found out it was a scam, I felt so betrayed. I kept it secret from my family for two years, but it's an awful thing to carry around. But later I sent him a message and said I forgave him."