Avoiding Romance Scams
Millions of people around the globe use dating websites and mobile apps to search for romantic partners. Sometimes, couples meet using technology and it’s love at first sight. But not everyone is actually looking for Cupid’s arrow to strike. Many are scammers aiming to meet singles for money, not for love.
Romance scams cost victims an average of $2,600 per person. That’s seven times more than other types of fraud. This scam has been on the rise since 2015 with fraudsters using more creative ways to steal the hearts (and cash!) of their victims.
What Is A Romance Scam?
Romance scams target individuals looking for a relationship. Fraudsters start by setting up fake profiles on various dating and social media platforms. After establishing trust over several weeks or months, scammers encourage victims to express their affection by sharing personal financial information, wiring money, or sending cash and gift cards. Often, the scammer simply takes the money and runs. But sometimes, they stick around to see if they can get even more money before disappearing without a trace.
Common Romance Scam Tactics
Scammers work to soften their victims’ hearts and open their wallets by using these two common tactics:
- Daily communication via e-mail, text messages, and video chats to build trust
- Use of emotional manipulation, e.g., guilt, desire, or claims of insta-love
Aggressive fraudsters might even be willing to meet in-person for the promise of a big payday, but they will soon vanish.
How to Protect Yourself from Romance Scams
The subtle signs of a romance scam can be hard to see, especially when you believe you’re falling in love. Be on the lookout for these red flags:
- They call you their soul mate or profess their love after only a short time.
- They urge you to move the conversation off the dating platform or social media website almost immediately, since they know many of these sites monitor certain activities.
- They claim to live or travel frequently outside the U.S., and use that as the reason you can’t meet in person.
- When you ask for details about their life, the information given is inconsistent.
- They cite money problems as the reason they can’t visit.
- Requests for money start small and are filled with embarrassment (which is faked), and emotion-filled promises to repay.
If you think you might be a Romance Scam victim, immediately cut ties with the individual and speak with a trusted family member or friend about your situation. You can also report it to the Federal Trade Commission to help protect others.