Quickly becoming the next pandemic of sorts, romance scams are spreading exponentially. With social networking sites and online dating apps exploding over the past decade, it has created an opportunity for nefarious characters to exploit.
What is a romance scam?
Romance scams are when criminals create phony online personas to take advantage of potential victims by creating fake relationships to ply upon their victims’ emotional needs for friendship, affection, and even love. The scammers create this relationship quickly through online conversation and work to gain their victim’s trust.
After establishing this trust, the criminals move on to make up a scenario where they need money, usually very quickly, and their victim is their only hope. There is often talk of meeting in person, creating a desire in the victim to keep the relationship going, but it never happens. The scammer takes advantage of the victim for as long as they can and then discards them.
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Key data about romance scams
In 2017, the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network reported there were $87M in romance scam frauds. Five years later, in 2021, that figure had grown to $547M, an increase of over six-fold and a 100% increase from 2020. Cryptocurrency has now taken the top spot among the payment platforms most utilized by scammers, with bank transfers and gift cards coming in next.
How to spot a potential romance scam
Be aware of these signs, and don’t let your emotions overcome common sense. It’s what scammers count on.
- They have few details or vague information on their social profiles, including few images. Most people have tens if not hundreds of photos and verifiable information about their life on their profiles.
- They immediately begin using endearing terms for you like “darling” or “sweetheart” to make you feel special.
- They are quick to proclaim love or deep feelings for you manipulating you emotionally.
- They are quick to want to move interactions off the social app to a more personal communication platform to avoid being “caught” by the app/site and removed.
- They say they want to meet you but never follow through. They often refuse to video chat, claiming they don’t have the technology.
- The number one way to spot a potential romance scam is when they start asking you for money for any reason.
How to avoid romance scammers
If you’re looking for love or companionship online, here are some things you can do to limit potential romance scams.
- Look for any of the previously mentioned tell-tale signs.
- Don’t share personal or contact details about yourself, like your address, date of birth, phone number, and more, publicly or directly with someone you just “met.”
- Do as much research as you can to verify your contact is real.
- Use websites and apps that are trusted. Trusted applications actively work to identify and remove romance scammers.
What to do if you suspect a romance scam
- Immediately stop all contact.
- If you’ve gone so far as to send money, see if you can stop payment or if other remedy methods are available.
- If you’ve provided financial information to the scammer, have it changed ASAP.
- Contact the website or application customer service to report the scammer.
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Please watch out for romance scams
Watch out for romance scams because the criminals behind them don’t care about you whatsoever. They will do whatever it takes to steal your money, and many of their tools are automated rather than personal.