Avoiding Romance Scams

It’s that time of year – romance is in the air – and scammers are prowling like lions looking for whom they may devour. Valentine’s Day is this weekend and, unfortunately, it’s another opportunity for scammers to make their moves on dating and social media platforms. With smooth greetings, gracious flattery, and elaborate schemes, they pull at the heart strings only to get to the wallet.

Romance scams are not new. In fact, tens of thousands of people fall victim to online romance scams each and every year. Feigning devotion, emotional trauma, real world needs, or uncontrollable desire, these people are not who they pretend to be online. In 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported over $200 million in reported losses to romance scammers. Sadly, the totals are probably much higher as it is suspected that nearly 40% of romance scam victims never report the crime.

Fortunately, there are ways to root these people out, identify their ulterior motives and protect yourself online. Be suspicious if:

  1. If he is too good to be true, he probably is.
  2. Their online picture looks like a model rather than an ordinary photo – try a reverse image search on Google https://www.semrush.com/blog/reverse-image-search/
  3. She quickly wants to take your chats off the dating site and communicate via email or texts.
  4. He lavishes you with attention and compliments.
  5. The person claims to live overseas or in the military.
  6. She promises to call, video chat, or meet and something always comes up.
  7. He requests intimate photos.
  8. She quickly professes to love you.
  9. The person makes you feel uncomfortable.
  10. Finally, the person is in desperate need of money for things such as medical expenses or a plane ticket.

If you ever suspect the person is a scammer:

  1. Cease communicating with him immediately.
  2. Take note of identifiable information such as email address, IP address, or dating profile.
  3. Contact your bank or credit card company if you have given her money.
  4. Report the scammer to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint
  5. Notify the dating or social media site where you met him.