As if online dating wasn't hard enough. It's hard enough trying to decide if the person on the other end of the connection is someone you want to date, let alone determine if they are real.
That's exactly why the FBI has launched "Operation Romeo and Juliet." To stop lonely love-seekers from sweetheart scams that lead to nothing but heartbreak and significant financial losses.
In fact, these scams are such a significant problem that from October 2013 to February 2016 there were more than 17,600 reported victims suffering $2.3 billion in losses.
Sweetheart scams work like this: The scammer presents himself or herself as a perfect match to a person online. Then, the scammer starts preying on a victim's love and trust to bleed bank accounts dry.
The scammer will say she needs money to afford a visit to the victim. When she receives that check, she'll come up with more excuses to steal money.
As part of Operation Romeo and Juliet, the FBI held a press conference on March 29 and offered some helpful things for online daters to be aware of before they get too involved with a criminal in between the digital sheets:
- Never, ever, send money to someone you have not met and have no reason to trust.
- Never provide your personal information, including your bank account information, to someone you do not know or trust.
And here's a few tips from us:
- Do a Google search of the person's name. It's possible the name has been used before, or for similar scams which could have been outed as a scammer on scam-tracking websites.
- Look at any social media profiles she has. If the profile was created recently or has many friends that don't seem to share any connection, that's another tipoff.
- Another way to catch a scammer is to run any personal photos she sent through TinEye. You might find "her" photos are all over the Internet. That's because scammers frequently use common stock photos to build their persona.
- A scammer could be juggling several targets at the same time. Ask about something they discussed in the past. If she can't answer fast, it means she's digging into her notes to "remember."
- The scammer may try to dodge any questions. Typically, scammers like to ask most of the questions so they can become "the perfect mate." You friend might notice that this woman has become more and more ideal over time - that's not a coincidence.
- And, if you catch one of these scammers, be sure to report it to the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
It's less stressful on the heart and the wallet to avoid scammers altogether. Here are some preventative measures he can take in the future.
- Some dating sites have ways to keep scammers off. Sign up for one of these safe, free dating sites.
- You may need more than a simple Google search to find someone out. Do a comprehensive search of a potential date.
- Dating isn't the only social network where scammers abound. Find out whether you're being scammed on social media.