Millions of people use online dating apps or social media to meet new people. Instead of looking for romance, many are lured by scammers and tricked into sending money. In 2021, Federal Trade Commission reports people have lost $1.3 billion to romance scams.

What is a romance scam?

Romance scams, or online dating scams, occur when someone uses a fake online identity on dating sites and apps or social media to gain a victim’s trust and affection, according to the FBI. The scammer uses the romantic or close relationship to eventually manipulate and steal money. These criminals seem genuine, caring, and believable, but are con artists.

What are the warning signs?

They often say they live, work, or travel outside of the U.S. Some examples include:

  • Working on an oil rig.
  • Working in the building and construction industry.
  • Serving in the military.
  • Working as a doctor with an international organization.

With their dating profile, the scammer uses plenty of photos and include links to their social media platforms. The profile may be fake if the person doesn’t include any personal details including interests and hobbies that match yours.

Romance scammers tend to act fast before their victims figure out their scheme. Some tactics include:

  • Professing their love quickly.
  • Asking you to marry them.
  • Promising you a face-to-face meeting.
  • Asking to move communication offsite.

Pay attention to your conversations looking for any red flags including:

  • The messages look like they were copied and pasted.
  • The conversation doesn’t make sense.
  • Spelling and grammar are incorrect.
  • They use excuses when asked to video chat.

How do they ask for money?

They will ask their victims for money by paying for:

  • A plane ticket or other travel expenses.
  • Family or personal emergencies.
  • Surgery or other medical expenses.
  • Custom fees to retrieve something.
  • Gambling debts.
  • A visa or other official travel documents.

These scammers will ask people to pay either by wiring money, reloadable cards, gift cards, or a newly established bank account in your name. According to the Federal Trade Commission, thieves ask for the money in this fashion because they can quickly get the cash and remain anonymous. The transactions are also impossible to reverse.

What are some common romance scams?

Some of the most common types of online dating scams include:

  • Fake dating sites: These sites claim to be legitimate but are filled with scammers and created to mine your information.
  • Photo scams: In exchange for intimate photos of the scammer, the victim shares their personal information.
  • Military romance scams: Posing as a military member, the scammer builds trust by using military lingo and titles, and then asks for money such as a flight home.
  • Intimate activity scams: The scammer connects with the victim through multiple social media accounts. Once the victim gains the scammer’s trust, the scammer demands intimate photos and videos while threatening them with the recordings.
  • Code verification scams: The victim receives a fake verification code through email or text for a fake dating app or website. After clicking the link, the victim must provide personal information, including Social Security number and credit card numbers.
  • Inheritance scams: The victim is convinced they need to get married to receive an inheritance. Scammers ask the victim to pay for something.
  • Malware scams: The scammer sends the victim to a website that looks legitimate, but it contains malware.

How do you avoid romance scams?

According to the FBI, you should:

  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use your details to better understand and target you.
  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches on their name, image, and details.
  • Go slowly and ask questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect and quickly asks you to leave the dating site to communicate directly.
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from your friends and family or asks for inappropriate images or personal information that could be used for extortion.
  • Beware if the individual comes up with excuses they can’t meet in person. If you haven’t met them after a few months, be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you communicate with online or by phone.

How should you report an online dating scam?

If you think you’ve been a victim of an online dating scam, take the following steps:

  • Contact your bank right away if you sent the scammer money.
  • Collect any records of your online relationship, including conversations and transactions.
  • File a police report.
  • Report the incident to the FTC, the FBI, and the dating site or app if the scam began there.

The information in this article was obtained from various sources not associated with Adirondack Bank. While we believe it to be reliable and accurate, we do not warrant the accuracy or reliability of the information. Adirondack Bank is not responsible for, and does not endorse or approve, either implicitly or explicitly, the information provided or the content of any third-party sites that might be hyperlinked from this page. The information is not intended to replace manuals, instructions or information provided by a manufacturer or the advice of a qualified professional, or to affect coverage under any applicable insurance policy. These suggestions are not a complete list of every loss control measure. Adirondack Bank makes no guarantees of results from use of this information.