What to Know About Online Dating and Romance Scams

Posted on by IDStrong User in Scams September 16, 2020
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Scams have been around a long time, that’s nothing new. One of the most disturbing and heartbreaking scams, however, is the romance scam. With dating websites, social media, email, and mobile devices, it’s easier than ever to wage an online dating scam to defraud someone, steal their identity, or their money. 

The FTC reports that $143 million is lost each year in romance scams. That is more than any other type of scam committee in the U.S. The average amount per victim is around $2,600, but for older adults over the age of 70, it is $10,000. Here are some of the most common romance and dating scams to be aware of and avoid. 

How Does Online Dating Scams Happen

online dating scams

Scammers set up fake profiles either on dating sites, Facebook, or other social media websites. They sometimes use real photos and information from a legitimate person they are copying. This technique is also called “catfishing.” Once they connect with you, they will quickly move the relationship forward by professing to have strong feelings for you. They may string you along for weeks or even months, showering you with loving words, sentiments and talk of a future together. Their goal is to get you to develop feelings for them and trust them, so when they ask you for money, you won’t even hesitate to comply. 

Once they have you hooked, they will make up some reason for needing quick cash. Some of the most popular excuses are a plane ticket for travel, medical expenses, a visa, or customs fees. They will ask you to pay by wire transfer, gift cards, or money order. They may ask subtly or overtly. They may simply ply you with loving-kindness, so you’ll give up pictures of yourself or other personal information they can use to steal your identity or blackmail you. 

Information below represents romance scammer stories and how to avoid internet dating scams.

Military Romance Scams

Many of the romance scammer stories involve the military. Frequently, to help explain their absence and any odd behavior, scammers will claim to be in the military working overseas. The military romance scam masks the perpetrator behind an icon of respect and upstanding (most people respect military men and women) so you won’t question their validity. They use false information and then request help paying for tuition, communication fees, marriage licenses, and medical costs. Many of the military romance scams originate in African countries and are difficult to trace. 

Ghana Romance Scams

As discussed earlier, it is very common for romance scammer stories to involve the military. Another military-related scam are romance scams from Ghana, criminals who claim to be U.S. military personnel stationed in Ghana. The U.S. Embassy in Ghana warns to look for these indications that you are being scammed: 

  • You met a friend/fiancé online.

  • You’ve never met face to face.

  • Your correspondent professed love at warp speed.

  • Your friend/fiancé is plagued with medical or other life problems requiring loans from you.

  • You are promised repayment upon the inheritance of alluvial gold or gems.

  • You’ve sent large sums of money for visas or plane tickets, but the person cannot seem to make it out of Ghana.

  • When your friend does try to leave the country, he/she gets into a car accident or is detained by immigration officials demanding payment, bribes, or proof of a certain amount of cash on hand for travel.

  • Your correspondent consistently uses lower case “i’s” and/or grammar not in keeping with their supposed life station or education level.

Nigerian Romance Scams

One of the romance scammer stories happened In August of 2019, the FBI arrested 80 Nigerian nationals who comprised a ring of romance scammers who not only targeted lonely individuals but also contacted business professionals as well. These organized nigerian love scammers set their sights on $40 million but were caught before they could reach their goal. They bilked U.S. citizens out of $6 million before they were nabbed.

At least two women reported engaging in nigerian romance scams on Facebook. The victims thought the men were U.S. Army. In both cases, the men claimed to have found diamonds and needed money to help smuggle them out of the country. One woman sent her alleged lover more than $200,000 before she found out it was a scam perpetrated by two Nigerians living in Los Angeles with the help of associates in Nigeria. Much of the money she had borrowed from family and friends. 

Romance Scammer on Facebook

Romance scammer stories also involve social media. No place online is safe, and that includes Facebook. Reports of rampant online dating scams littering the social media giant have been surfacing lately. It works by the scammers contacting single women through a friend invite or Facebook Messenger to connect. They quickly push to move the virtual relationship to text, WhatsApp, or email in case their Facebook accounts get deleted. Some of these cyber criminals pretend to be in the military. They profess to love you and develop strong feelings quickly, trying to get victims to trust them. Inevitably the conversation turns to a request for money. The FBI claims that many of these scams are being perpetrated by organized Nigerian gangs who run professional money-laundering operations. Once they hook in a victim, they extort funds or send goods to the women, asking them to send them along to another recipient (which then makes them an accessory). 

Facebook has assured members that it is on the lookout for these fake profiles and deletes imposter accounts quickly. Facebook uses an algorithm looking for scam-related activities and just last year found 500,000 accounts linked to romance scams. 

Romance Scammer on WhatsApp

The reason scammers often push their love interest to quickly move the relationship out of the dating site or social media platform is that they know the authorities are cracking down, and their accounts may soon be closed. They have resorted to using free, unrestricted texting applications like WhatsApp to communicate back and forth with their victims. Because these mediums are assumed private, they often get women to send risqué photos or videos which they can then use to blackmail them. 

How To Avoid Online Dating and Romance Scams

Love and romance are hard enough without being worried that your partner is not who they say they are and a scammer just waiting to separate you from your life savings. The points below will give you a clearer understand of how to tackle this problem and how to avoid online dating scams:

  • Your love interest avoids sending pictures, talking on the phone, or meeting up in real life.

  • They ask you a lot of personal questions early on in the relationship.

  • They develop strong feelings quickly and profess to love you and talk about a future together.

  • They rapidly suggest that you move your online relationship to texting or another app. 

  • The person you are falling for is in another country and cannot ever seem to leave or visit.

  • If their profile looks too good to be true, it is probably faked.

  • Soon after they feel like they have your love and trust, they will suffer a major tragedy and need your help/money/etc.

  • If they ask you to send them money through a wire transfer, bitcoin, or gift cards, it is absolutely a scam. 

  • If things just feel “off” about the whole romance, pay attention to your gut.

How To Spot and Outsmart a Romance Scammer

Online dating can be wonderful, but also scary. It’s one thing to have your heart broken but another to lose everything because you trusted a stranger who stole all your money and was never the person you thought they were. read the points below to learn how to outsmart a romance scammer:

  • Request to talk on the phone, and if they refuse, it’s probably a scam.

  • Watch out for poor grammar that does not match up with their profile.

  • Perform a reverse image search on Google with their profile photo.

  • Use a background check service to verify all their profile information and see if it matches up with what they say and what you know. 

  • Never, ever send money to someone you don’t know, no matter what story they tell you or how strongly you feel about them.

  • Do not share your personal details, banking information, or private pictures until you meet in person and get to know your partner.

  • If you do make a date to meet, let friends and family know exactly where you will be, and always meet in a public place.

  • If you are asked to accept goods or money and send them to someone else, do not do it! You could be liable for federal charges. 

  • If you did share any credit card or banking details, cancel the cards and call your bank immediately to secure your accounts. 

How To Report Online Dating Scams

If you are the victim of an online dating scam, despite the embarrassment and shame, you may feel, report it. Alert the website or online social media platform and the FBI. Keep a copy of all correspondence and details so they will have something to go on when investigating.

It’s easy to lose your heart to someone who pretends to care, but it’s much worse to find out later you were scammed. No one wants to be alone and using a dating website is not a bad thing; just use common sense, and if someone or something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, so walk away and stay safe.

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