More and more people are turning to online dating apps and social media platforms such as Bumble, Hinge, Facebook and Instagram to meet someone special – especially now as social distancing guidelines are still being followed. This can be a wonderful way to meet a partner, but unfortunately, instead of finding romance, many individuals find a scammer looking to take advantage of lonely hearts and the chance to get money. In 2019, it was reported that $201 million was lost to romance scams and, over the last two years, it has become the scam people have lost more money to than any other type of fraud reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It’s important to be cautious and remember, not everyone is looking for love. Here’s what you need to know about romance scams to protect your heart…and your finances.
How a Romance Scam Works
- Scammers create fake profiles on dating apps or contact their targets through social media sites. They will also make up fake occupations and locations.
- They begin the conversation with sharing the basics: what type of work you each do, where you live/where they live, favorite hobbies and interests. This helps to build a relationship and establish trust.
- If this goes well, the fake suitor may ask you to leave the dating site and start communicating via email, phone and instant messaging.
- Scammers create a sophisticated, but fraudulent and fictitious web of their identity, success, wealth, trustworthiness, desire to be in a long-term relationship, and even opportunities to start a business together.
- These scammers are professionals and will spend months working to build the trust they need to set you up to steal your life savings.
- They will ask to you send money either domestically or overseas via wire transfer, reloadable gift card or cash and give a sense of urgency and persistence.
- Your new romantic interest sends a picture that looks more like a model from a fashion magazine with heavy editing and doesn’t seem realistic.
- Scammers quickly profess their love for you.
- Phony suitors lavish you with attention and repeatedly promise to meet you in person, but always seems to have an excuse to cancel. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- He or she attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used against you.
- They ask you for money! And want you to send it domestically or overseas via wire transfer or a reloadable gift card or cash.
- Making up stories that sound believable, their request will have a sense of urgency and they will be persistent. They say the money is for things such as:
- Hospital Bills
- A plane ticket or other travel expenses
- Pay off debts
Do’s & Don’ts of Online Dating
- Take it slowly. Ask your potential partner a lot of questions and watch for inconsistencies that might reveal an impostor.
- Check the scammer’s profile and photo. Use the “search by image” feature on Google to see if the image, name or details show up elsewhere.
- Be wary of flirtatious and overly complimentary messages. Paste the text into a search engine and see whether the same words show up on websites devoted to exposing romance scams.
- Cut off contact immediately if you begin to suspect that the individual may be a scammer.
- Notify the dating site or app on which you met the scammer.
- Don’t ever send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone. Don’t feel a false sense of safety because you’re the one who made contact first. Scammers flood dating websites with fake profiles and wait for victims to reach out to them.
- Don’t reveal too much personal information in a dating profile or to someone you’ve chatted with only online. Scammers can exploit details like your last name or where you work to manipulate you or to commit identity theft.
- Don’t ever give an online acquaintance intimate photos that could later be used for extortion.
What You Should Do if You Suspect A Romance Scam:
- Stop all communication immediately!
- Talk to someone you trust and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
- Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”
How to Report a Romance Scam:
- If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Explain the gift card you paid for was given to a scammer and ask if it can be refunded.
- Notify your bank if your personal information was compromised.
- Change passwords on all your email, social and financial accounts.
- File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
- Report the scam to the FTC.
For more tips to help protect your personal information, check out our other blogs on Privacy & Cybersecurity and visit the Lakeland Bank identity theft information center. If you believe your personal information has been compromised or you think you are a victim of identity theft, we’re here to help! Contact us at 866-224-1379.