Online dating websites, apps and social media sites are incredibly popular ways to meet people. Unfortunately for some, instead of finding romance and companionship they find a scammer trying to steal their money instead of their heart.
How Romance Scams Work
Scammers set up fake profiles on online dating sites and apps. Some scammers also use social media like Facebook and Instagram to select their targets. The scammers begin to develop relationships with their targets, building trust and often chatting or talking several times a day through email, online chats, or via text. They will almost never allow you to see them in-person or on even video.
How to Spot a Romance Scammer
When interacting with someone on a dating site or app, and he or she mentions that they are living outside of the country or traveling outside of the country, your antenna should go up. Particularly if a person says they are in the military, working on an oil rig, works internationally, or is a doctor for an international organization, just to name a few. Often romance scammers begin to profess their love in a very short period of time, and then make "The Ask."
Scammers often ask for money to help with things like money to get back into the country, assistance with medical bills, helping a family member or paying off a debt. They insist that they will visit, and there's an emergency that prevents them from coming.
Once the scammer has convinced their target that they are in desperate need, they will ask for a wire transfer, or gift card or reloadable cards to get them the money. We've also seen where the scammer has sent the target a check for deposit and that check was fraudulent. These payments are quick and pretty much impossible to get back.
Tips to Avoid Romance Scams
- Never send money to someone you have never met in person.
- If you receive "The Ask" stop talking with that person right away.
- Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
- Complete an internet search of a person's occupation and type "scam" after it and review the results to see if there are any similarities. For example, you can search "soldier scammer" or "army scammer."
If you think you may have been scammed, contact your financial institution right away. Report what happened to the online dating site and the Federal Trade Commission.
Learn more about avoiding scams and fraud on our Good Money Moves podcast - check out episodes 21, 22, and 41 now! Subscribe on Apple, iTune, Spotify, or TuneIn.