In some ways, the Internet has been a real help for anyone looking for love. Several dating sites and mobile apps give you hundreds, even thousands of potential matches.
Unfortunately, not everyone looking for love is who they appear to be. A lot of romance scammers are out there who love to prey on the emotions of people looking for love and use that connection to bilk their victims out of money or personal information, wreaking havoc on their bank accounts and credit scores.
These scammers aren’t perfect, though. They tend to rely on the same tactics over and over again, and once you can recognize the signs of a romance scammer, you’ll know how to avoid them.
Here’s how to recognize the signs of a romance scammer
What is a Romance Scammer?
In order to understand the tactics romance scammers use to trick their victims, you need to understand how romance scams work. So how do romance scammers operate?
When someone wants to run a romance scam, they start by creating fake profiles. Then they start reaching out to people or wait for people to reach out to them, and start striking up relationships. Once the scammers have the victim’s trust, they then start manipulating them into sending money or personal information.
Romance scammers are pretty successful, too. According to the FTC, almost 70,000 victims lost a total of $1.3 billion to romance scammers in 2022.
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What are the Signs of a Romance Scammer?
In addition to knowing what romance scammers do, you also need to know how to identify the warning signs of a romance scammer. Here are some red flags that someone you're online love interest might not be who they say they are:
They fall in love quickly
The sooner a scammer can get you to fall in love with them, the quicker they can start manipulating you. That’s why they’ll start saying they love you after a short period of time. They may also “love bomb” you with romantic language, poetry and love songs to fool you into falling for them faster.
Their profile is vague
Romance scammers don’t want people poking around too much in their fake profiles. That’s why the profiles they create are vague and lack specific personal details. Be wary of profiles that don’t have information about:
- Specific location
Their profile seems too perfect
Scammers try to make their fake profiles as appealing as possible. That’s why the profiles they create tend to have photos of stunningly attractive people who have luxurious lifestyles and impressive careers. While it might be enticing to have a model, influencer, investor or Silicon Valley millionaire interested in you, it's best to be suspicious if your ideal match seems a little too perfect.
They want to move the conversation to a more private platform
Scammers like to move conversations off established sites and onto platforms that are harder to monitor, such as email, phone or chat apps. Once scammers have their victims on a private platform, they can then start pressuring them without being detected.
They say they want to meet you, but never do
In order to keep your interest up, scammers will often say they want to meet in person. Of course, since the scammer isn’t who they say they are, the meeting never occurs. There’s always something that will come up. If your new love interest repeatedly avoids meeting you, odds are good the person you’re talking to is a scammer.
They want you to give them money
The most obvious sign that someone is a scammer is that they will ask you for money. They might have an unexpected emergency or some other expense that they just can’t pay off right now, or they have an excellent investment opportunity that they only offer to their closest friends. All they need is for you to send them some money, preferably in the form of cryptocurrency, a wire transfer or better yet, a gift card.
If someone you met on a dating app or dating site is asking you for money, don't do it. Never send money to anyone you haven't met in person, and even then, only loan money you never expect to see again.
How to Protect Yourself From Romance Scammers
Knowing that romance scammers are waiting to pounce on people who are just looking for love isn’t just scary, it’s demoralizing. Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself from scammers’ tricks.
Research the person you’ve been talking to
Once you’ve started talking to someone, start looking for information about them online. Search for them on social media platforms, including:
You'll also want to check other online dating sites, and don’t forget to search for the person on Google to see what you come up with. You might even want to do a reverse image search to see if the photo actually belongs to someone else.
Let the relationship develop at its own pace
When you’re starting a relationship, especially with someone you’ve met online, you need to take it slow. Don’t share anything like:
- Personal information
- Financial details
- Intimate photos
Until you have met the person face to face.
Set up a video chat
If you’ve been chatting with someone that you like, set up a video chat to verify their identity. A video chat is the next best thing to meeting in person to verify someone’s identity, and you’ll be able to see how closely their appearance matches the profile picture. However, if the person you’ve been chatting with refuses to do a video call, or does a call with you but won’t show their face, be suspicious.
Don’t ignore red flags
Let’s be honest—when you get a crush on someone, it can take a while for their imperfections to arise. This can be especially true in the case of online romance, where idealizing the person you’re talking with can be easy.
That being said, don’t ignore any red flags that come up. Be suspicious if the person you’re talking to shows any sign of being a romance scammer, and if there is a red flag with no explanation, confront the person about it. You might worry about scaring off the love of your life, but the truth is that if that person is actually the love of your life, they won’t mind proving their identity to you.
Let friends and family know
Finally, let your family and trusted friends know you’ve been talking with someone online. Not only that, listen to their perspectives on this new relationship. Sharing information with loved ones can provide an outside point of view and help you make informed decisions.
What if I’ve Already Fallen for a Romance Scam?
Nobody likes admitting they’ve fallen victim to a scam. Admitting you’ve fallen victim to a romance scammer, though, can be especially humiliating. No one wants to admit they weren’t just fooled by a scammer, but even loved them.
Getting your money back from a romance scammer
However, you have to take immediate action, regardless of how you feel. The first thing you should do is to try to get your money back. If you sent the scammer money through debit cards or credit cards, contact your credit union, bank or credit card company, let them know the date of the charge and tell them that charge was fraudulent, then ask if they can reverse the transaction.
If you paid with a gift card, which many scammers prefer, contact the company that issued the gift card, let them know that the card was used in a scam and ask them to refund your money. You should also hold onto the gift card itself, as well as the receipt.
Letting the authorities know about the scammer
Once you’ve reached out to the companies and financial institutions you used to pay the scammer and asked them to reverse the charges, your next step needs to be alerting the authorities. Contact your local authorities and report the scam, providing them with all relevant information, including conversations, phone numbers, social media profiles, and email addresses. You’ll also want to reach out to the Federal Trade Commission at their fraud reporting site.
Recovering from identity theft and rebuilding your credit score
If a scammer has convinced you to part with personal information, especially bank accounts, you’ll need to take some extra steps to prevent them from using your identity, opening accounts in your name and leaving you with a ton of debt and a poor credit score. You may also have to take steps to rebuild your credit score.
Your first step should be contacting the big three credit reporting bureaus—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—and having them freeze your accounts. You’ll also want to place a fraud alert on your account so lenders will know to take extra steps to verify your identity. If your social security number has been compromised, you’ll also need to reach out to the Social Security Administration and let them know your number has been used to commit fraud.
Once you’re done with that, you’ll also need to update the passwords on all your accounts, from online bank accounts to your email accounts. You should also set up 2-factor identification whenever possible to make it harder for scammers to access your information.
Finally, get a copy of your credit report. You’ll want to make sure your credit score is good, and also look for signs of identity theft, such as:
- Accounts you don’t remember opening
- Credit cards you don’t have
- An increase in how much debt you owe
- Different personal information
If there is any incorrect information on any of your credit reports, you’ll want to dispute it with the reporting bureau. You should also let them know that you’ve been a victim of identity theft and let them know which information on your report is due to scammer activity.
Need help protecting yourself from romance scammers? Ask us!
Safeguard Yourself Against Scammers With First Alliance Credit Union
If you’re looking for love online, you need to be careful of romance scammers. Fortunately, most of them resort to the same tactics in order to manipulate you into sending money to them. Once you know the signs, you’ll be able to protect yourself from romance scammers.
You can also help yourself get some protection from romance scams by becoming a member of First Alliance Credit Union. We have a lot of tools and resources that can help you avoid scams, including the First Alliance mobile app with the MyCards feature that will let you limit the dollar amount of purchases on your cards, the geographical area in which you can use your cards and even the types of businesses where you can use your cards. If you believe that you’ve been the victim of a romance scammer, you can also talk with a First Alliance advisor to learn what options you have.