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A promissory note can be legal even if handwritten but that should be the least of your worries. If this person is a scammer then it does not matter even if it was a gold-plated promissory note certified by the Attorney General as you will not get anything back.
The first important thing you should be aware of is that it is never possible to state with certainty whether someone you have met online is genuine or not unless you have actually met them in person. Therefore, there will inevitable be a degree of speculation involved.
With the anonymity of the internet, there has been a very significant increase in romance scams. The main way to identify such scams is not by tracing the person, which as mentioned would often be impossible, but by looking at the overall situation and identifying certain 'red flags'. The most common ones are:
1. You have met this person online, usually through a dating or social networking website, or via instant messaging.
2. They will usually be located in a different country to you.
3. They will strike a long-distance relationship with you, they are very pleasant and romantic. They may take time to gain your trust, although often the relationship progresses unnaturally fast.
4. They will eventually ask for money. There are various reasons used. However, the golden rule is that you should never send money to a stranger that you have originally met online, no matter what the reasons or who they say they are.
5. Finally, they often request that the payment is made via some dubious money transfer method, with little or no fraud protection, such as Western Union, Moneygram, etc. These are also used because it makes tracing the recipients of the money very difficult, if not impossible.
If the above looks familiar, chances are that the person you are involved with is a fraudster and you need to proceed with extreme caution, if at all. I strongly suggest you cease all contact with the person and certainly not send anything to them.
So as soon as you get a money request from a person you have met online and never met in person, you can basically guarantee it is a scam. Maybe 0.001% of cases are genuine but the risks are too high to take that chance.
If you send the money you will most likely lose it. If you refuse to send it based on the risks, I the person is genuine they will understand that and it should not affect your relationship. The more pushy they get about it and the more they make you feel guilty the clearer it is that they are a scammer.
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