The lonely hearts scam involves fleecing a rich victim by dangling the promise of love and affection. In the old days, the con artist had to physically meet and talk with the potential victim, but nowadays, con artists can use the Internet to fleece victims from afar.
The con artist simply contacts potential victims and claims to be a beautiful woman currently living in another country, such as Russia or the Philippines. After sending a potential victim a photograph (which is usually a picture of someone else), the con artist steadily gains the trust and confidence of the victim through email, faxes, or letters.
When the con artist believes he has gained the victim's trust, the con artist makes a simple request for money to get a visa so the woman can leave the country and meet the victim. Inevitably, if the victim sends the con artist money, complications arise, and the victim needs to send more money for bribes or additional fees.
Sometimes the victim realizes he's been fleeced and stops sending money, but other times the victim honestly believes that the con artist is a woman trying to get out of another country, and keeps sending the con artist money in hopes of eventually meeting the beautiful woman in the photograph. The longer the con artist can maintain this illusion, the more money he can fleece from the victim.