How to Avoid Being in a Romance Scam
Nancy Patterson - September 11, 2019
Jennifer once met John on an online dating website. At first, he seemed like the kind of guy that every woman would go after. He was smart, charming, financially stable, and was finishing up his last semester studying abroad. They couldn’t meet in person and had never FaceTimed, but the two communicated every day with the hopes that when John arrived back in the United States, they would be together.
Jennifer had recently been through some tough times and had divorced her husband the year before. Finding someone like John had been a sigh of relief for a troubled lady in her 30s. Then one day, John called in a panic saying that his passport, visa, and other legal documents had been stolen. He claimed he needed a small amount of money to get it back and that money was tight. Jennifer didn’t even hesitate and wired John enough to pay for his new passport. John promised he would make it up to her when he got to the U.S.
A week later, John called again with an even bigger financial request, and Jennifer started to get suspicious. After some further digging, she realized that John definitely wasn’t coming back to the United States and that he wasn’t planning on returning the money that she had sent either. John was a romance scammer, and he was using his relationship with Jennifer to get any money he could out of her.
Romance scams happen all the time, but how do you spot a scammer? Are you a potential target for scammers? What lies do scammers use to try and convince people of their scams? These are all valid questions, and we will look at each one individually in this blog. There have been over 100 thousand scam reports filed in the United States in 2019, and over 78 million dollars lost to scam artists alone. Avoiding them at all costs is a priority for everyone. Here is a complete guide to avoiding scams and keeping your money safe.
Profile of a Scammer: What to Look For
The first thing to note when you are suspicious about someone’s identity is where they are from, and where they are currently located. Scams rarely come from inside of the United States. Many scam artists claim that they are studying abroad, or on a long trip and will be back momentarily.
The truth about scams is that most of them are people from third world countries who are trying to make extra income. Life is tough, and the need for financial security motivates some people to do drastic and sickly things like scamming.
Scam artists usually are younger men. The profiles that they create on dating sites are attractive, witty, and well designed but not always deep. One of the best ways that you can spot a scammer is by searching for them on social media. Odds are they don’t have a social media account on one of the popular websites like Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. If they do have an account check the legitimacy of their past memories. Often con artists want to get to scamming as quickly as possible. They don’t spend the time to make in-depth social media profiles. They just throw something up that will be passable to a quick review.
CheckPeople is also a great way to do a background check on a potential love interest. Our website will pull all sorts of things like where they lived when they were in the States, whether this person has family members here, and any social media sites that they might possess. Using our service you might find that the person you are talking to isn’t who they say they are at all.
Profile of a Victim
So you might be thinking: “Am I a target for potential scammers?” The quick answer to that question is yes! If you are a living, breathing human who has a monthly income, people will try to take advantage of you. But specifically in the scope of online scammers, you might not be a target victim. Here are some characteristics that scammers look for in people they target.
Older women are targeted much more often than men are in scams. Scammers target people who recently went through a crisis like a divorce or a death in the family. Women are the target of most con-artists for a simple reason: most romance scammers are men.
Romance scammers use popular dating apps to connect with people and then receive wire money transfers from the victim. Most victims are in a first world country such as England, France, Canada, or the United States. These places have a high income and quality of life, which makes them an excellent target for frauds.
Sometimes even victims of abuse are targeted or susceptible to scams. Often, abuse survivors developed a psychological form of denial when it came to their abuse situation that still lingers in their mind. They excused behavior or tried to block it out mentally during the abuse until it overwhelmed them. A romance scam can show signs of fallacy or fraud that an abuse victim will purposefully block out. If you are an abuse victim, be very careful and watch for red flags when you are involved in online dating.
You would tend to think that if a con-artist scams a victim one time that the victim will never make the same mistake again. Ideally, that would be true, but sadly, it just isn’t. Instead, victims are often scammed more than once. The University of Exeter found that people scammed once are more than likely to be scammed again.
Lies Romance Scammers Tell
The number one lie that romance scammers will tell centers around their location. Most of them will claim that they are outside of the United States. The reasons that they are outside of the U.S. vary and change from scammer to scammer. Some con-artists will say they are in the military traveling, while others claim that they are a doctor working with an international organization.
Other stories include things like a student studying abroad or traveling for a business agency. Usually, the reason they say things like this is so that it makes sense when they need money transferred into an international bank.
The next lie that romance scammers often tell is based on why they need your money. They will tell you that they need plane tickets to see a dying or deceased family member. Maybe they have accrued a substantial gambling debt. There are also stories involving customs fees for “leaving the country” or “visa and traveling documents.” But these aren’t the only things scammers will tell you. There are a lot of lies, and scammers will get creative if they have to. Don’t take anything someone says at face value until they prove it.
The final lie that we are going to talk about today is how you help them in the fake “crisis” that they are going through. First, the scammer might ask you to wire money to an international bank. This seems harmless but still is dangerous. You should never wire money to someone you don’t know. Make sure you know who they are and what they are going to do with your money before you wire it to them.
Another way they will try to get money out of you is by using MoneyPak or Gift Cards. If you load up a gift card on Amazon, they can claim it offline. This is an obvious request and seems a lot shadier than a money transfer, but it still manages to scam some people. We recommend that you never send gift cards to anyone but a close relative. Especially not someone you met online no matter how legitimate you think they are. There is no getting this money back, so be extra careful that you don’t get scammed in this way.
What to Do if You Think You Might be Involved in a Romance Scam
If you are beginning to get suspicious about the person you are supposedly “dating” online, this section is for you. The first thing you should do is stop talking to them right away. It might be obvious how desperate they are if they call and text you non-stop during this time, but you have to take the time to figure out precisely what is going on.
The next thing you should do is get help from someone you trust. Whether it be a close friend or a loved one in the family, it is vital that you seek advice. A second opinion will help you with the red flags that you might be missing. It’s always helpful to have an outside presence to look at the relationship objectively and help you decide what to do next.
Now you are going to want to deep search the person you are talking with. One of the best ways to do this is to use CheckPeople to search them out. You could also perform a Google Image search by going to images.google.com and uploading a photo in the box. Then it will pull up every place on the internet that photo is listed. You might find out that your “online lover” is actually multiple people.
When you check their social media look closely for fake things. It might seem to be legit, but be willing to dig. You might find rather quickly that it is a fraudulent page.
Don’t hesitate to block the scammer on everything. You should also report their profile to the dating website or app so that they cannot scam other people. You don’t need to explain to them why you are leaving. Just cut things off cold-turkey and start over on the website.
Ways to Avoid Being Scammed
To sum everything that we’ve talked about in this video, you should never just trust everyone you meet on the internet. People are always looking out for themselves. You have to be smart and secure with who you are talking with. Perfect people don’t exist. We are all flawed. So be watching for flaws. When someone admits that they aren’t perfect, that can be one of the best things ever.
Knowing about the site you are using for dating is another way to avoid online romance scams. Whether it be for a one-night relationship or something more long-term, you should get an idea for the kind of people that you run into on the app daily. Make sure to read the rules and regulations before you go into the app. That way, you are adequately prepared for what is at stake.
Watch the grammar. We’re not talking about Oxford commas and correct use of a semi-colon. Those things are incredibly advanced. We’re talking about spelling common words, and not using periods or capitalizing the first word of a sentence. Remember, most of these people scamming are from third world countries, English is not their first language. Although they might have a solid understanding of English as a whole, their grammar is not excellent. This can be a huge help in avoiding a scam.
Always try to notice the victim mentality. Now some people are just like this. It isn’t an instant tell-tale sign of a scammer. But almost all scammers play the victim card. Con-artists are people who have supposedly “gone through a divorce” or “been dumped 10 times.” Sometimes they will make financial claims that they have been fired thousands of times. Be wary of someone who plays the victim mentality.
Ask for a FaceTime early on. Voice calls are okay but aren’t as revealing as a Facetime. You want to know whether the person is who they say they are right away. We do want to express that this does not guarantee that you aren’t getting scammed. An elite scammer can go to great lengths to try and deceive their prey. However, it is a perfect way to get to know someone. Obviously meeting up with someone is the best way to get to know them.
Planning a meetup should also be carefully considered. A meetup with someone who isn’t who they claim to be can be much worse than a money scam. You could be physically harmed, so we would always recommend a FaceTime or Phone call before a meetup.
The most significant way to avoid being the victim of a scam is merely being alert, aware, and cautious. Someone desperate on an online dating website is asking to be romantically scammed. Have set standards in place, look for red flags, and if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Keep a level head and withhold your trust until you really get to know someone.
It might be best to avoid dating sites altogether. Yes, that means that you will have to get out and actually talk to people in real life. This might seem terrifying to you, but it’s the best dating option out there. When you actually sit down and talk with someone in real life there is still a possibility that they could be a scammer, but the odds are much greater that they are unable to hide their lies. Real conversations are the best ways to catch scammers.
These are the best ways to avoid being scammed through a dating website. If you enjoyed this or have other information you want to share, please feel free to leave us a comment on how you avoided a romance scam online.