Scammers are waiting around every corner, and special occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Black Friday are usually when they kick their activities into high gear. Unfortunately, this is the perfect time of year for romance scams.
Read on to see how these scams work and what you can do about them.
Romance scams on the rise
Romance scams are increasingly popular, especially when love is in the air around Valentine’s Day. The goal is to steal your money or personal details, but it can take a while to build up to that point.
A common place to search for victims is on dating apps. The scam works by criminals showing interest in you, but after gaining your trust, they ask for money or other favors.
And it’s more common than you think. According to the FTC, nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam last year, with over $1.3 billion in losses. That’s a staggering amount of money, which drives criminals to commit more fraud.
These scammers do a lot of research before targeting you and pay close attention to the information you share on dating sites. That’s how they know what you like and can present themselves as a perfect match.
If your profile says you’re into hiking and craft beer, they also claim to be into those things. They will even say your favorite musicians and movies are their favorites. It’s a great way to build trust by making it seem like you’re very similar.
It seems like a match made in heaven, but there is one problem: they’re never able to meet face-to-face.
“Their excuse is often baked right into their fake identity. Claiming to be on a faraway military base is the most popular excuse, but offshore oil rig worker is another common (and fake) occupation. In short, there’s no end to the lies romance scammers will tell to get your money,” the FTC explains.
Some romance scams can turn into sextortion scams quickly. That’s when someone asks to share explicit photos. If you do, they could threaten to share your pics with people on your social media contact list. The only way to stop them is to pay them off. Yikes! Tap or click here for more details on sextortion scams.
How to spot romance scammers
Falling victim to a romance scam can be devastating. You can lose thousands of dollars, and you’ll often leave feeling heartbroken and betrayed because you believed you found a good partner.
Here are romance scam signs to watch for and ways to avoid falling victim:
- Nobody legit will ever ask you to help — or insist that you invest — by sending cryptocurrency, giving the numbers on a gift card, or wiring money. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- If someone tells you to send money to receive a package, you can bet it’s a scam.
- If your match wants to take the conversation to another platform immediately, it’s most likely a scam. They will ask if you have a profile on apps like Google Chat, WhatsApp or Telegram.
- Try a reverse image search of profile pictures. If the details don’t match up, it’s a scam. Tap or click here for steps to do reverse image searches.
- Be cautious of a relationship that moves too fast. It can be a red flag if your partner makes outrageous claims about his feelings for you if you’ve just met.
- It should also be a red flag if your new partner is never available to meet up. They might be stringing you along, and it will only be a matter of time before asking for money.
Help stop scammers by reporting suspicious profiles or messages to dating apps or social media platforms. Then, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. If someone is trying to extort you, report it to the FBI.
Listen to these fake Medicare calls defrauding older Americans
Use Tinder or know someone who does? Turn on these safety features