For many Americans, finding love and companionship means turning to online dating sites, mobile apps and social networking sites.
Many adults consider online dating a good way to meet people this day in age, with the fastest-growing share of users being those 50 and older. However, seeking love online has a major downside: scammers are eager to take advantage of those that are lonely.
Creating a dating profile causes many anxiety but when you create your profile and get a perfect match –good-looking, smart, funny and personable, you start to feel confident in yourself. The problem with this match is that it could be a scammer that created a profile by stealing photos and information from other real people. These scammers are able to create profiles that causes their target to feel comfortable enough to create a deeper relationship with them. Originally, they come off as smitten with you and eventually your relationship is moved to a more private setting by using email or a chat app.
Over weeks or months you develop a stronger connection with them, you’ve learned that they live on the other side of the country or even abroad due to military service or business needs. You make plans to meet them, but each time you have planned to meet something comes up and they are unable to. Then there’s an emergency (a medical problem or even a business crisis). When this emergency arises, they need money quickly. He or she will ask you to wire them money, they promise to pay you back. Some may even ask for you to purchase re-loadable gift cards or gift cards from certain vendors to send them to help them out during their situation. They know that by having you provide funds in these ways they can remain anonymous and they know that these types of transactions are almost impossible to reverse. Once you give in, the scammer will continue to bother you for more and more money.
Many of these scammers are seeking out targets on these dating sites and social media. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received more than 25,000 reports about romance scams in 2019, almost three times the amount in 2015. Victims’ losses totaled $201 million, which is six times higher than the reported money losses since 2015.
To keep yourself safe watch for these warning signs:
- Your new romantic interest professes their love quickly. Claims to be out of the country for business or military service.
- They send you a picture that looks more like a fashion model from a magazine than an ordinary snapshot.
- The person wants to leave the dating website and communicate with your through email and instant messaging quickly after first connecting.
- He or she lavishes you with attention. They will often bombard prospective marks with texts, emails and phone calls to draw you in.
- They repeatedly promise to meet you in person but always seem to come up with an excuse to cancel.
- They claim they need money for emergencies, even though they have never met you.
Take it slowly. Ask your potential new love interest questions and watch for inconsistencies that might reveal they are lying to you.
Listen to your gut. If it sounds and looks to good to be true, it is.
Do your research. Google the person whom you are talking to. You can even check their photo by using Google’s “search by image” feature. If the same photo shows up elsewhere with a different name attached to it, that’s a sign a scammer may have stolen it.
Be wary of flirtatious and overly complimentary emails. 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 swindler.
Notify the dating site or the maker of the dating app, on which you met the scammer.
Report it to the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1
Don’t feel a false sense of safety because you made first contact. Some scammers wait for victims to come to them.
Don’t reveal too much personal information on your profile or to someone you’ve chatted with only online. Some scammers will exploit this and manipulate you to get what they want. Or they might even commit identity theft.
Don’t ever give or send an online acquaintance intimate photos that could later be used for extortion.
Don’t give, lend or send cash, Money Gram, Western Union, re-loadable gift cards, gift cards to merchants, wire money or send any other type of virtual cash to someone you’ve chatted with only online, let alone someone you’ve never met- you’ll never get it back.
For more information on Romance scams and other scams visit the following websites:
Sources: Information for this article came from FTC, AARP and LSS websites.