For singles looking to date and meet interesting people online, there’s no question that we live in an exciting time. With so many sites, apps, and services dedicated to matching people up, the odds of meeting a compatible mate online have greatly increased over the past several years. However, more free and convenient dating options also means more ways for scammers to strike. Enter “Romance Scams”. The FTC reported that Romance Scams cost people more than $143 million last year alone. And, according to a new FTC Data Spotlight
, reports of romance scams are on the rise.
So, what exactly is a romance scam? No, it’s not just a bad date that ended up costing you $20 in parking, a sub-par meal, and a night you’d rather forget. We’re talking about people you meet online that sweep in, drape you in compliments and attention and then ask for money. They know exactly what to say and when. They might convince you that they need the money because of a medical emergency, a death in the family, or even to come visit you in person. Typically, they want the money by wire transfer or gift card. But the moment they receive the requested funds, the romance is over.
Romance scammers mostly troll on dating apps and social media. One popular tactic is to steal photos to create an attractive profile, peppering it with details to make them look like a real catch. Another common ploy is for scammers to duplicate the Facebook or Instagram account of someone the victim used to know or has not spoken to in a while. Because the victim believes they know the person or had a past connection, they are even more likely to interact with the scammer.
Similar to genuine romances, it may take them some time to gain your confidence. But once they’ve secured your trust, the scam kicks into high gear.
So, knowing that these scammers are out there, how can you avoid them? Below are a few tried-and-true tips to help you stay safe and alert:
- Never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person.
- Check to see if the person you're talking to has multiple accounts on the same social media platform (i.e. Facebook or Instagram). If so, one could be a fake account.
- Keep your guard up. Don’t divulge too much personal information.
- Ask questions and look for answers that don’t add up.
- Compare the person’s profile pic on Google using the “search by image” feature. If it comes up as a stock photo or someone else’s profile image, move on.
- Talk to your friends or family about your new love interest to get their opinion.
- If you suspect a romance scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.