Using social media and dating apps, scammers often target people who may be lonely or vulnerable. They build trust through promises of love and a life together before using that trust to scam victims out of their money.
Romance scammers use stories that appeal to your emotions and elicit sympathy, usually involving a tragic circumstance or a last-minute crisis. They also typically ask for money before meeting in person.
Know the Warning Signs
Romance scams are one of the most common types of online fraud, and they’re on the rise. In fact, they cost an average of seven times more than other kinds of fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
To make their fraud more difficult to detect, con artists usually create fake profiles on dating apps and social media. They use these to get you to trust them, build a relationship, and then eventually ask for money.
During the early stages of their relationship, these fraudsters might ask for your personal information — such as your full name, date of birth, email address and even security questions you use to lock down your accounts on social media. That’s a lot of personal info to share in a short amount of time, and it could be enough for the scammer to steal your identity or blackmail you with photos of yourself in a compromising position.
Scammers are also increasingly using stalkerware — a software that allows them to monitor your activity without your knowledge — to spy on you. A survey by the National Cyber Security Alliance found that 3 in 5 Gen Z and millennial Americans from ages 18-39 have downloaded apps that allow them to stalk their partner’s online activities.
Another way to spot a romance scammer is by looking at their profile pictures. These images will likely only show a small portion of the person’s face. Authentic dating site users will have multiple photos of themselves in various situations, from full body shots to individual face shots.
They’ll also be careful not to put their real name in their profiles, as this is a major red flag for scammers. Rather, they’ll use names that have a similar sound to yours, or they might create an entirely new profile with a different name.
Once they’re sure that you are in love, these scammers will begin asking for money — often for urgent needs, such as hospital bills or travel expenses. They’ll also offer up a story to back up their request, such as a family tragedy or an emergency.
Do Your Research
Romance scams can be a serious problem. They often occur in a romantic online relationship and can lead to financial losses, including fraudulently wired money or cryptocurrencies.
Scammers use a variety of tactics to lure victims into their scams, which can be complex and even confusing. This is why it’s so important to do your research and be aware of the warning signs before you start a relationship online.
For example, they may create a fake profile that looks like they’re successful or talented, with photos from magazines. They may also claim to be a U.S. citizen living and working abroad, or claim they’re in the military. They’ll then ask for money in advance of meeting, or to cover a medical emergency.
During these meetings, they’ll tell elaborate stories that are emotionally appealing and convincing. They’ll say that they need your help to pay for a plane ticket to meet or urgent surgery.
They’ll often try to get you to send them money via a wire transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram, or a prepaid money card. These methods are not secure, and once the money is sent it will likely be lost.
To protect yourself, don’t send money without asking for proof of identity and citizenship. If they claim to be a US citizen but don’t have proof of it, you should refer them to the local embassy or consulate in their country of residence.
You should also avoid sending money in an email or instant message, because these communications are not private and may not be monitored by law enforcement. Instead, use a separate email address or username to keep your personal information private.
In addition, you should not share any financial information with a potential romantic partner until you’ve met them in person and feel confident that they are trustworthy. Doing so can help you identify a scammer early on and avoid losing money. It’s also a good idea to set up credit monitoring for yourself. This will alert you to any fraud if someone tries to steal from you online.
Don’t Send Money
Romance scams target vulnerable people and are often initiated online. These fraudsters create fake profiles and attempt to build phony emotional attachments until the victim is comfortable sending them money.
Scammers often steal photos from publicly published sources and use these identities to approach their targets. They can also build an identity around the likes and dislikes of their victims.
They usually keep a relationship going for months or years before they start to request money. They may tell you stories of illnesses, car troubles, legal issues or travel expenses that can be solved with money.
After gaining your trust, they will ask for money in various untraceable ways, such as wire transfers or cryptocurrency. They may also ask you to send them gifts, including gift cards and prepaid card purchases.
In some cases, they may ask for your bank account number to transfer money into theirs. They might even ask for your credit card information, which they can then use to take out loans or make purchases.
If you think you might be a victim of a romance scam, report it immediately. This helps federal investigators learn about commonalities and can lead to an arrest.
The number of online romance scams is increasing, especially among older adults. Loneliness and the development of new technologies have contributed to this trend.
According to the FBI, romance scams are confidence tricks that manipulate human psychology. They can be a serious threat to your financial security.
While anyone can become a victim of a romance scam, it is particularly dangerous to those who are emotionally vulnerable or recently widowed or divorced. These individuals are more likely to be manipulated by a con artist than those who are well-educated and financially stable.
If you are ever in doubt, talk to a trusted friend or family member before making any decision. This will help you make the best decision for your situation. It will also allow you to slow down and listen to your gut. This will prevent you from making any impulsive decisions that could be dangerous for your future.
Don’t Be Pressured
Romance scams can be emotionally devastating and even financially damaging. They involve con artists using dating apps or social media to gain the affection of an unsuspecting victim. The perpetrator may then steal the victim’s identity and use it to commit fraud or steal money.
In addition to stealing your money, romance scams can also put you at risk of developing mental health problems, like post-traumatic stress disorder or suicide. This is because the victims often keep emotionally attached to the scammers until their lies are revealed.
The most common way to avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam is by not falling for the signs and ignoring them. However, you should still be cautious of the warning signs and do your research on a potential romantic partner before you get involved.
First, check out their profile and photos. Many romance scammers will have a very “too perfect” profile or use photos that make them look like they’re out of a magazine. You should also be wary of anyone who claims to be traveling or overseas, especially if they’ve never met you in person.
Next, check their bank statements. Most banks will notify you if there’s a suspicious transaction. If you suspect someone is a scammer, tell your bank immediately so they can block the account.
Finally, don’t send them any personal information. Scammers will often ask for personal information such as your date of birth, address or credit card number.
The scammers can then use this information to extort you into sending them money for travel, medical expenses or other urgent matters. This can result in large amounts of money being sent to an unfamiliar place or person and can lead to severe financial loss, according to the FBI.
If you think you’re being scammed, report it to the FBI or your local law enforcement agency right away. This helps to decrease the number of scams and frauds in our society. Moreover, it can help to increase the chances of law enforcement catching the criminals. As a society, we need to raise awareness about the risks of romance scams and take action to protect our loved ones from this kind of crime.