Avoiding romance scams

Romance scams have always been around, but the internet has made it even easier for scammers to target vulnerable victims. Loneliness can be a powerful motivator. It might motivate a person to make some changes in their life in an effort to be new people. Meeting people online happens all the time these day, but people need to be careful and not fall victim to a romance scam. Romance scams are schemes in which the scammer pretends to be romantically interested in the victim just to steal money or sensitive information. With the rise of online dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Match there’s also been a sharp increase in scammers preying on lonely people in search of a potential partner. These scams can also take place on social media apps like Instagram or Facebook.  According to the Federal Trade Commission or FTC consumers lost $770 million to social media related scams in 2021 alone.

How Do Romance Scams Work?

Even though a romance scammer may be prepared with a convincing story to make the love interest seem legitimate there are several red flags that could let you know that you’re dealing with a scam. Common red flags are if the person claims to live far away or be in the military stationed overseas and if the person pressures you to move the conversation from an app to text messaging. By moving the conversation off the dating app platform, the victim loses all the built-in protections that the company offered. The scammer will also have your phone number which could make it more difficult to cut communication. Take notice if the relationship progresses unusually quick and if the other party continuously breaks promises to meet in person. Scammers want the relationship to move quick, so the potential victim doesn’t have the time to think about their actions before they’re asked to send money or give up sensitive information.

How To Spot a Romance Scam

Be extra wary if your new romantic interest asks for money before meeting in person. But you should be just as concerned if your new romantic interest offers to send you money. This can be a way of tricking you into becoming a money mule in a money laundering scheme or a clever way of trying to obtain your bank account information. Often scammers will ask for money with a story that creates a sense of urgency. Examples include medical expenses, plane tickets or gambling debts. Many romance scammers will ask for payments via wire transfer or preloaded gift cards from Amazon, Google or iTunes since these transactions allow the scammer to stay anonymous and are almost impossible to reverse.

How to Avoid a Romance Scam

Avoiding romance scams can be as simple as following common digital hygiene and cybersecurity practices. Being aware of how romance scams work and the red flags to look for will keep you from falling victim. Since scammers usually collect information of their targets through their online presence you should be cautious with the type of information you keep on your online dating and social media apps. Consider keeping your online dating profiles anonymous by using different usernames and set your social media profile to private. Since scammers want to take advantage of the victim being excited about new love it’s best to take online relationships slow.

Take the time to vet your new interest and ask questions. If the answers don’t add up or it seems too good to be true, you could potentially be dealing with a romance scam. Do not be afraid to conduct your own research. Doing a reverse image search could be an easy way to figure out if you’re dealing with a real-life Romeo or if you’re simply being taken advantage of. One of the first thing many scammers try to do is isolate their victims from their friends and family so seeking a second opinion from loved ones could help you avoid a scam. It’s easy to be blinded by the possibilities of what could be so for a friend and family member’s opinion may help you see the blind spots. Most importantly if you do feel you’re being scammed stop communicating immediately and report the incident.