Con artists use online dating sites to dupe victims into sending money and gifts in romance scams. Once convinced they have found love, victims are tricked into sending money or personal information, including credit card numbers and social security numbers.
Romance scams often involve identity theft and can be particularly devastating. The victim may have trouble getting back the money or property once it has been transferred to another country.
Individuals have reported losing $1.3 billion to romance scams in the last five years, more than any other FTC fraud category. In previous years, the figures have risen, and 2021 was no exception: reported losses for the year reached a record $547 million.
Social networking websites like Facebook and Twitter are a practical way for millions of individuals across the nation to share interests online and stay in touch with friends and family. Additionally, dating apps allow you to connect with like-minded people and potential romantic partners.
The Lies Romance Scammers Tell
Romance scammers are experts at lying and manipulating their victims. They lie about everything, from their identity to their money. Here are some common lies romance scammers tell:
- They’re in love with you: Scammers will claim that they have fallen in love with you and wish to spend their life with you. They may even claim that they have already begun planning your future together.
- They can’t see you: Scammers often say they cannot meet up with you because they are on a business trip or have been called away on an urgent family business. They might even convince you they need money for an emergency, such as a sick relative or an accident victim.
- They need money for something important: Scammers often ask for something urgent, like medical treatment for an accident victim or paying taxes on money they inherited from a distant relative. Many scammers will also claim that they need money to pay rent because they lost their job, quit work because they’re pregnant with their baby, or had some other unexpected expense pop up (like needing a new phone so they can contact you).
Types of Romance Scams on Social Media
Here are some ways scammers can trick you into sending money:
Fake Dating Sites
Scammers set up fake dating sites and pose as attractive singles looking for love. They often use photos they’ve stolen from other websites or pictures of models in relationships with other people. When you contact them, they’ll promise you marriage or say they’ve fallen in love with you after just one email exchange — but it’s all part of their plan to get your money so they can disappear without paying back their debts.
Code Verification Scams
In these scams, the scammer sends a message asking for payment for something such as an iTunes gift card or other verification code. The scammer then sends a fake receipt to try and make it look like they have sent you what they promised. This is not true — they never send anything out at all!
The victim may be asked to provide personal information or credit card details during this exchange, which can lead to identity theft. You should never give personal information or bank account details over social media or email. Attackers can also use these messages and spoofed emails to run ransomware and phishing attacks and steal all your information.
Inheritance scams involve a scammer pretending to be from a foreign country, such as Nigeria or Ghana, who claims that they have inherited money from their deceased family member. The scammer will ask for money upfront to cover taxes and fees before they can receive the inheritance.
In photo scams, a scammer will pretend to be in a relationship with the victim but will need help paying for something. They may send images of themselves with expensive items such as jewelry or designer clothing to make the victim believe they are wealthy. After the victim gives the scammer money, they will purchase the items themselves.
This scam uses a malicious link or file to install malware on your computer. The scammer will say they have a virus that needs to be removed and encourage you to download software from their site. Once you download the software, however, it installs malware on your computer. This can lead to identity theft, money loss, and other problems. The attackers can also use other social engineering techniques and affected links to steal all your personal information.
Scam Phone Calls
Another vector for initiating romance scams might be through malicious phone calls. Perpetrators may get the victim’s contact details from his social media accounts or other online resources to initiate contact with the victim. After building their trust, the scammer will ask for personal details like banking credentials from the victim, which when provided can be used to instigate wire transfers to the scammer’s account. It is better to avoid such calls that contain scam area codes to ensure your online safety.
Avoiding a Romance Scam on Social Media
To ensure that you don’t become a victim of a romance scam, here are some tips for spotting them:
Don’t Fall for Flattery
Scammers know that flattery is a great way to build trust with their victims, so they will often shower you with compliments and tell you how much they like everything about you — from your pictures to your personality. The problem is that these messages aren’t from someone who likes everything about you; they’re from someone who wants something from you.
Don’t Share Financial Details
Romance scammers will ask for money or personal information right away. Could you not give it to them? If you decide to have financial conversations with someone online, ensure they have a trusted profile and a history of positive reviews.
Be Skeptical of Excessive Compliments
It could be a red flag if someone is showering you with compliments or has the perfect relationship advice for you immediately. Online romances can be alluring, but remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
Use Common Sense
If someone contacts you and claims they have fallen in love with you after seeing your profile picture, don’t believe them. These scammers often claim to be visiting your area and want to meet soon. They may even say they want to marry you right away. The truth is that they don’t care about you—they want your money.
Check Their Story
If someone claims to be a military member or law enforcement officer, check their story with their base or command center before sending them any money or sharing sensitive information (like financial information). If it turns out their story was false, report it immediately so that other people won’t fall victim too!
Romance scams are a huge problem affecting people of all ages, nationalities, and walks of life. But don’t be a victim—there are ways to protect yourself from scams so you can enjoy your online dating experience without worrying about falling for these online cons.
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