Don't Become a Heartbreaking Statistic!
Each year, millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. Instead of finding romance, many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money or sharing personal information. Avoid becoming a heartbreaking statistic by learning the warning signs of a romance scam.
How a Romance Scam Works
A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person is tricked into believing they are in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. These scams start with a cybercriminal creating a fake online profile to attract victims. These criminals make sure the relationship moves fast, and attempts to gain the victim's trust early on. Then the scammer asks for money, accepts it, and disappears.
The Warning Signs
1. They say they are far away
One of the first giveaways of a romance scammer is their background. These individuals often pose as someone who is stationed abroad, to create a reason why they cannot meet in person. Some common stories include:
- They’re working on an oil rig.
- They’re in the military or deployed overseas.
- They’re a doctor in an international organization.
- They’re working on a construction project outside the U.S.
COVID-19 poses a unique opportunity for scammers. Not only are victims more isolated, they are more susceptible to believe reasons why they cannot meet in person. Many scammers are using the pandemic as both an excuse to not meet in person and as a reason they are in need of extra money.
2. Their profile seems too good to be true
A legitimate dating profile usually has plenty of photos of the person in different situations, with one or two that show the person's whole body. The individual might also include links to their Instagram or Facebook accounts.
In contrast, a dating profile might be fake if the person doesn't list any details. Or maybe their interests and hobbies just about exactly match yours — the similarities might be too good to be true.
3. They break promises to visit
Romance scammers want to keep their identities a secret. One way to keep you from questioning their identity is to promise to come visit. They may even have you pay for plane tickets or other travel costs. But they'll cancel at the last minute, providing an elaborate reason for why they can't see you after all.
With COVID-19, not wanting to meet in person has become more common. Luckily, individuals using video conferencing tools has also become more common. Be very wary of individuals that evade video conferencing!
4. They claim they need money
A romance scammer may ask you to send money for things like:
- travel expenses, like a plane ticket, or a visa/passport
- medical expenses
- gambling or other debts
These needs usually come with a sob story attached.
An alternative to this, they may send YOU money. This could rope you into a "money mule" scheme, whereby the scammer asks to deposit money into your bank account, distribute the funds to other people, or deliver packages. In fact, these requests could be tied to money-laundering.
5. They ask for specific payment methods
Be cautious if your cyber sweetheart asks you to send them money via:
- wire transfer
- preloaded gift cards
- a newly-established bank account in your name
These are ways to get cash quickly and remain anonymous. Plus, the transactions are hard to reverse. Once you send a little bit of money, they might even ask for more. If you say “no,” their messages may get desperate and aggressive.
Information provided by the Federal Trade Commission and Norton Security.