While romance scams aren’t new, their popularity continues to rise. Scammers often steal someone’s identity or create fake profiles on dating and social media apps to meet victims in order to gain your trust and steal your money.
After gaining your trust, they may ask you to buy them something or send them money. Recently, some scammers have posed as investors and shared false investment tips with their victims, which could lead you to invest in a fake opportunity. Or, the person may “mistakenly” send you money and ask you to send it back or forward it to someone else. If your bank later determines that their payment was fraudulent, the sum of the payment will be subtracted from your account. Romance scams can target anyone, and some scammers seek to form platonic rather than romantic relationships.
How Do You If You’re Being Scammed
Scammers can be experienced in spinning stories to lure in their victims. However, there are some red flags that might help you spot them. These include the following:
- They prefer to move communications away from dating websites. They may suggest that you move to instant messaging, text, or phone calls instead
- They ask a lot of personal questions about you and avoid answering personal questions about themselves.
- They try to establish a relationship quickly.
- They ask for financial help.
- You never meet them in person.
How to protect yourself from Romance Scams
- Don’t share personal details
If you share personal information like your full name, date of birth, and home address with a stranger, you may not know what they’ll do with it. Try not to share personal details online with people whom you already know, either – you may end up sending it to a fraudster pretending to be them. You should also be careful when picking your user name on dating websites – don’t include personal information like your location (for example, ‘JaneFromLondon’).
- Don’t send or receive money
Do not send or receive money from anyone you’ve met online, no matter how convincing their story is. This applies to cash as well as your bank account or other financial details. If the request is coming from someone you think you know, check with them offline to ensure that it’s really them.
- Use trusted dating websites
Fraudsters tend to want to take their criminal activity off reputable dating websites as soon as possible. They’re likely to try to convince you to interact with them via social media or text messaging. This is so that the dating website has no proof of them asking you for money. If you’re in touch with someone on this type of website, communicate with them through the site’s messaging services.
- Don’t share personal contact details
Use a website that will allow you to keep your personal details private until you’re ready to share them. These include your contact details, such as your phone number or email, or home address.
- Think twice before using your webcam
Be careful when using your webcam with a new online love interest, even if it’s someone whom you think you know. The footage could be used against you. This applies to cameras on all devices, from computers and laptops to smartphones and tablets.
- Trust your instincts
If you feel like something is wrong, it may be. Be careful.