Lots of people now use dating apps and social networking websites to find love.
But instead of finding love, they end up in the arms of scammers that lure them into sending money.
Online dating and social media platforms have become very popular tools for finding friendship and love.
Unfortunately, they are also popular tools in the hands of romance scammers.
These fraudsters create fake profiles to trick their victims, establish romantic connections with them, and eventually, dupe them.
According to data gathered by the FTC, about $304 million was lost to romance fraud scams in 2020.
That is almost 50% higher than what was recorded in 2019.
After creating fake profiles on dating platforms, apps, and social media sites (like Facebook, Instagram, or Google Hangouts), they then build a relationship with their prey to win their trust.
Once they’ve built a romantic connection with their targets, they then make up a story and request money.
Tricks Romance Fraudsters Use
Romance scammers trick their targets with series of lies.
They usually say they are traveling outside of the United States.
Some scammers tell their victims that they are:
- In the military
- Working in an oil company
- A medical practitioner with an international organization
Romance fraudsters ask their targets to send them money for different purposes.
The commonest ones are to pay for:
- Custom fees to clear goods
- Pay for travel expenses
- Gambling debts
- Medical expenses
- Official travel documents
These scammers request money through the following channels:
- Gift cards (from Google Play, Amazon, Steam, or iTunes) or MoneyPak
Signs of a Romance Fraudster
Romance scammers are very good at manipulating their targets.
Most of the signs of a romance fraudster are subtle because the scammer is trying to portray himself as being trustworthy before duping you.
To avoid falling for their tricks, you need to pay attention to the following signs when you meet someone online:
1. Romance fraudsters profess love quickly, even before meeting you
In most cases, the first red flag that portrays someone as a romance scammer is that the individual will express strong emotions within a short period.
They may profess their love for you, but it’s a trick they are using to get your details from you.
Don’t give out your personal information (such as answers to the security questions that you use to secure your accounts on the internet).
2. They claim to need money for emergencies
Don’t pay attention to anyone that asks for money, irrespective of how crucial their circumstances appear to be.
If you come across any of these lines when chatting with a new love interest on the internet, then it’s most likely the person is a romance scammer:
- “I need money to treat a sick relative.”
- “I need a loan to get my visa so that I can visit you.”
- “I need some money to start my business.”
- “I’m in the U.S.
military and I need some money.”
- “I need some funds to finalize my aunt’s burial.”
3. Romance fraudsters try to take you off the dating platform
Romance scammers usually convince their victims to leave the dating platform and use their email to continue communicating with them.
This may not seem like a red flag at first.
It’s normal to want to move out of the dating site and use other forms of communication when you’re getting to know someone.
However, you need to be cautious when a stranger asks for your email address or phone number.
They can use these to have access to your details.
If you want to communicate with someone outside of the dating platform, create another email address or use an instant messaging app that has nothing to do with your phone number and primary email.
4. They always cancel their planned visits
If anyone you meet online plans to visit you but always cancels the visit due to some ‘emergencies,’ you need to be very suspicious.
In most cases, these cancellations will be followed by a request for a loan.
Look out for an online love interest that says something like, “I can’t wait to meet you, but I can’t afford a plane ticket right now because of the challenges in my business.
If you can give me a short-term loan to buy a ticket, I will refund you.
I just want to be with you.”
How To Avoid Romance Fraud Scams
Once you can figure out if someone is scamming you on the internet, you will be able to avoid online dating frauds.
You will also be able to maintain online safety.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends adhering to the following precautions when you meet people on social media and dating platforms:
Search online to cross-check the name, photo, location, and email address of the person.
These details will help you know if the person is legitimate.
Also, search for the job the person does to see if others have heard similar stories.
For instance, you can search for ‘oil company scammer’ or ‘US military scammer.’
2. Talk to someone you trust
Share your situation with a family member that you trust.
Discuss the steps you intend to take with the person.
Scammers usually try to separate their victims from friends and family.
They also pressure their victims to decide alone.
Don’t let anyone force you to make any hasty decisions.
3. Don’t send money
Do not wire money (nor put money on a cash reload card or a gift card) to an online love interest.
Once you do, you will not get it back.
If you have sent money, get in touch with your bank immediately if you believe the person is a scammer.
4. Conduct a reverse image search
Carry out a reverse image search of the profile picture of the person to confirm if it has any connection with another name.
If it does, then it’s a sign of a scam.
How To Report A Romance Fraud Scam
If you have been duped by a romance fraud scammer, contact your financial institution immediately.
Tell them you sent money to a scammer and ask if they can help you get your money back.
You can also report to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
You should also report to the website (or app) where you met the fraudster.