With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching, there is no better time than now to discuss romance scams.
Romance scams often occur on dating websites, apps, and social media platforms. These scammers typically create fake profiles attempting to get close to individuals and gain their trust, leading victims to believe there is a genuine relationship. These types of scams often end not only in heartbreak but also a break in the bank.
Who is targeted for a romance scam?
Anyone can be the victim. Because fraudsters seek out vulnerable, lonely victims, it’s especially common for older adults to fall prey to these schemes.
How do romance scams typically play out?
After gaining the trust of their victim, romance scammers will predictably make up stories and request money. Romance scammers may request money via a bank transfer, cash app, crypto currency, or gift card. It is important to not only never give away money to someone you do not know, but also to keep your personal and bank information private.
In addition, scammers may say they want to give funding to their victims as a gift and ask for their personal information to deposit funds. What the scammer is attempting to do, however, is steal banking information or use their victim’s account
as a funnel or pass-through account for money laundering.
What are the signs of a romance scam?
Since romance scammers are often prowling on dating websites and apps, it’s important to be cautious when talking to anyone you don’t know. Some warning signs of a romance scam could include:
- Things seem to be moving fast: Romance scammers will typically show an immense interest in their victims almost immediately because they want to cut to the chase. They will say all the right things yet always have an excuse why they can’t meet in person. Most of these scams occur entirely online, with scammers asking for money to be sent electronically. This leads to the next major red flag...
- Requesting money: The scammer may share a seemingly believable story to gain sympathy with their victim. If you match with someone on a dating app and they ask for funds, but you’ve never even met – be warned!
- Person is overseas for work/military service: Being overseas or in a vastly different time zone gives the scammer a built-in excuse for large gaps in communication. They will also use this as a reason to shift any communication to WhatsApp, Telegraph, or Google Hangouts
Tips for avoiding romance scams:
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know
- Get to know people online gradually
- Be cautious when posting, liking posts, commenting on posts, and sharing content online
- Try a reverse image search online by taking the photo on the dating profile and seeing what comes up. You can do this by going to Google Images, uploading a picture and seeing the results. This is an effective way to check if someone has potentially stolen an image online to use as their fake identity.
- If it seems too good to be true, it’s because it probably is
If you believe you might be the victim of a romance scam, we recommend immediately cutting off communication with the potential fraudster. If you had shared your account information or personal identification information, you should contact your financial institution and potentially the credit bureaus. In addition, you can report these scams to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov.