With the internet being a constant daily activity in our lives, scams of all types are becoming increasingly common. Among these, are romance scammers.
A romance scammer is an individual, or even a group of individuals, who create online personas using fake names, fake pictures, and fake stories, with the intention of romancing unsuspecting victims online and stealing their money.
In fact, 2021 reached record highs of romance scams reported, with a total loss of $547 million dollars. That is close to double the amount of $307 million in 2020.
With the number of romance scams being reported only rising (fifty-six thousand reports in 2021), those who have a presence online need to be all the more vigilant of these criminals.
What Is A Romance Scammer?
Romance scammers are the con artists of online dating and social media sites.
At first, they seem to be real and genuine, luring in their victims with talk of wanting a close relationship and even love. They may go as far as saying they want marriage, but the true goal is earning that person’s trust.
Once that trust is earned (they try to achieve this as quickly as possible), the real work for them begins-convincing you that they need money fast and you are the only one who can help them.
How do romance scammers trick you into sending them money?
These scammers think of many different stories they use to convince their victims into sending them money.
They will often say they are in some line of work that involves them residing outside of the U.S. to avoid ever meeting their supposed lovers in person.
This work could include, construction, the military, the medical field, and any other career that would make sense for them to be abroad.
After their story is established, an emergency is fabricated to trick you into believing they need money quickly to resolve the emergency.
The emergency can be an elaborate story that makes it seem like you are their only hope and can include a wide range of excuses. Their story could also be that they simply need money for a plane ticket so they can meet you in person.
They will use all sorts of tactics to manipulate you into trusting them enough to do as they ask, such as, making you feel guilty, promising something in return, and claiming it is the only way the two of you can be together.
In what ways do the scammers request money?
It is important for scammers to remain anonymous and untraceable, so, the means in which they request money will be reliant on that fact.
In terms of the scammer wanting quick cash, wiring money will be their top choice. They will make it out to be a safe and quick transaction, considering, it is a popular and convenient option for someone to send money.
The less trouble it is, the more likely they are to receive that money, right?
Wiring money typically involves a bank-to-bank interaction, either in person or through an online bank account.
There are also major retailers’ that offer this service as well, all of them being quick, easy, and can transfer to a number of different countries.
Once those funds are sent, it can be impossible to reverse.
The scammer will most definitely be using an alias account that will never link back to them, remaining anonymous.
Other means scammers can request money, depending on their story, is through reloadable cards and gift cards. Some reloadable cards only need an email to transfer money.
They may even be so bold as to ask you for your bank account information, further providing them with the opportunity to use your account for other malicious schemes.
It is important to point out that senior citizens are more susceptible to this kind of attack. Especially, those with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
I have personally seen this happen, the results were devastating, causing the person to go completely bankrupt.
Some romance scammers will involve their victims in online bank fraud by convincing them to set up a new bank account, the scammer will then transfer money into this new account, and then ask their victims to wire the money to another account, outside of the country.
8 Ways to spot a romance scammer
It is extremely easy and accessible to make a social media account, and it is just as easy to make one that appears to be real.
But with a little investigating, anyone can spot a romance scammer.
- Romance scammers don’t waste time claiming to their victims that they’re in love. If you are contacted by someone who is quick to jump the gun and fall in love, be weary, they could likely be a romance scammer. They will go the extra mile to sound sweet and endearing. We all want love, but always be cautious with anyone who is too quick to fall in love with you, romance scammer or not.
- Whenever you are contacted by a stranger through dating sites and other social media, be sure to check out their profile and look for ways to legitimize it. Check out all their posts, their friends list, and their pictures. This alone is not enough, do a web search with their photos and name to see if they have been used before.
- While communicating with an interested stranger, ask yourself if they seem too perfect. Do they try and appear larger than life? They may seem to have amazing lives that require them to travel a lot. On the other hand, they could be mysterious, never giving away too many details that tie them down anywhere.
- Although it is normal to want to communicate through text or email, it could be concerning when someone wants to immediately after contacting you. Never be too quick to give out your phone number or email.
- Ask a lot of questions. Be sure to be personal in your questions and avoid anything too generic. You want details, and you want those details to line up. Are their responses consistent and believable? If anything seems fishy or does not add up, you know to proceed with caution.
- Romance scammers may try and isolate you from friends and family, wanting to prevent anyone from tipping you off that they are suspicious.
- If someone is genuinely interested in you and is claiming they want to be together, it should not be a problem meeting them in person. If they keep making promises that they will meet up with you, but something always prevents them from doing so, this is a major clue that something is wrong. They may use the need of meeting up as an opportunity for one of those fabricated emergencies, to manipulate money from you.
- Romance scammers will not show their real face since it will not match their profile pic. Ask them if they want to skype or video call. If the answer is always no, you must wonder, why are they hesitant in showing their face?
What to do if you are suspicious someone is a romance scammer
- Stop communication immediately.
- Discuss your situation with a friend or family member. They can help you to determine, if you are indeed, talking with someone suspicious.
- Report any suspicious profiles to the dating or social media site.
- If you are afraid they may have stolen any important information from you, be sure to contact the necessary departments, such as, the FTC, the FBI’s internet crime complain center, and your credit card company. You can easily find contact info for these organizations with a quick internet search.
6 Important tips to remember
- Never give out important personal information.
- Never send someone money who you have never met in person.
- Be careful with what you post online, scammers can use any of those details to target you. Details to avoid are birthdays, addresses, and anything that could be used for security questions.
- Never share passwords and be sure to set strong passwords.
- Keep all devices up to date, and have security software that defends against viruses, malware, and all other online threats.
- Keep friends and family safe as well by informing them of these and all other types of scammers.
Arming ourselves with knowledge is always the best defensive measure!
Knowing what to look out for and using our best judgement can prevent a lot of heartache. Remember everything you have learned here and you’re sure to prevent ending up as a romance scammer victim.
Share this article with friends and family, arming them against these scammers as well.