Romance scams are a rising threat for many Americans, more so during the holiday season. In 2020 alone, romance scams reached a record $304 million in losses reported to the FTC. Thats almost double the amount reported in 2019. It’s important to be aware of how these scams occur, especially if you’re searching for a partner online, to avoid becoming a target for these types of criminals.
So how do these scams work? Scammers create fake profiles on various dating apps and sites as well as on regular popular social media sites such as Facebook, Whatsapp, and Instagram. A scammer then strikes up a seemingly friendly connection and uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to deceive and steal from a victim. These criminals are exceptionally good at what they do, and will seem genuine and caring to build trust with their victims. As soon as they believe they’ve created a strong enough connection, they will ask a victim for money.
The good news is that these scammers are often easy to identify since they have a common method of operating. Keep reading to learn what to look out for.
Criminals will often say that they are living abroad or traveling internationally, in order to have a plausible excuse for not meeting up with victims in person. They might say they are:
- in the construction industry
- stationed at a military base abroad
- a doctor working with an international organization
Romance scammers might ask money to:
- pay for a visa or other travel documents
- pay for a plane ticket/travel expenses
- pay for medical expenses
Or they may ask you to send the following and later use it to extort you:
- compromising images of yourself
- confidential information
- personal information
They often ask you to send money:
- by wiring money
- with gift cards from popular vendors
- through a prepaid visa card
Avoid breaking your heart and losing your money
The bottom line is that not everyone on dating or social media sites are looking for love. They use your emotions and your good nature to steal your money. If you suspect a romance scam stop communicating with the person immediately. They might then try to guilt you into sending the money which will further confirm that they don’t have your best-interests at heart. You can also talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family. Heed their advice if they say they’re concerned about your new sweetheart.
The moral of the story is: Never send money to a love interest that you haven’t met in person.
Here are some additional resources from the FTC regarding romance scams: