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Romance Scams to Watch Out For in 2022

Michelle Wilson - February 17, 2022

Romance Scams to Watch Out For in 2022

According to the FTC, online romance scams have tripled in past years, with approximately $304 million lost in 2020 alone. Unfortunately, these numbers just hit the surface of the online dating scam statistics, with thousands of people hiding their experiences. As larger populations flock to online dating sites, understanding the common tactics and methods are imperative. By remaining educated and informed, you’ll ensure that the matches you’re communicating with are genuine and authentic.

What is a Romance Scam?

Romance scams are commonly known as online dating scams. They occur when an individual is tricked into believing they’re in a romantic relationship when the reality is far from true. These false relationships involve a cybercriminal using a fake profile and identity to connect with a victim, lure them into a relationship, and prey on these vulnerabilities for financial gain. The scam artist will typically ask for financial help or assistance but occasionally blackmail their victims.

Here are the most common online dating scams include the following methods:

Fake Dating Sites

A scam dating site is an authentic-looking platform that harvests user information for personal gain. Thieves will collect personal or financial information from victims, using these details or selling them on the dark web.

Photo Scams

These scams will often convince victims to send their personal information (generally for “extra security”) in exchange for intimate photos of the scammer. Once the information sends, the scammer uses these details for fraudulent purposes and never sends the photos.

Military Romance Scams

Most often deployed, these methods will have a scammer pose as a military professional. The scammer uses military jargon and titles to build authenticity and often uses them for their expense requests. These requests commonly include flights, rent back home, or medical expenses.

Intimate activity scams

This tactic works by slowly building trust with the victim. The scammer connects with the victim across multiple social media channels, often playing into a relationship with the target. The scam artist asks the victim for intimate photos or videos as they become closer. The criminal blackmails the victim financially, threatening to share pictures or videos with contacts on social media.

Code verification scams

These scams often send fake verification codes through text or email, posing as a dating website or chat application. When the victim clicks the link, the page requests personal details like Social Security numbers, addresses, and credit card details.

Inheritance scams

This tactic plays off the Nigerian Price scheme, telling the victim a sob story about an inheritance. The scam artist explains that they need to get married to get the inheritance, hoping to prey on the victim’s vulnerability. If the relationship continues, the scam artist requests funds for plane tickets or hotel rooms but never appears.

Malware Scams

Malware is common among dating site platforms, with the scam artist connecting with individuals and sending them a link. The website looks like a legitimate platform, but it includes malware that infects the device (including keyloggers or ransomware).

How a Romance Scam Works

A romance scammer will start on a dating app or website, creating a profile that attracts victims. After connecting through a fake profile, the scam artist initiates a conversation and begins building a relationship. The romance scammer makes up a story requiring money as the victim starts trusting them. Should the target send the funds to the scam artist, they often disappear.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

Most people have a solid understanding of normal behavior online, but it’s hard to see the big picture occasionally when talking to a new person. Here are a few telltale signs to help you determine if someone is scamming you online.

They’re Far, Far Away

One of the easiest giveaways of romance scams is the location or background. These locations may be military reasons, construction projects, or working on an oil rig. Fake profiles will often have someone stationed far away, giving an excuse for not meeting in person.

The profile seems too good to be true

Legitimate dating profiles always have plenty of photos in different situations, whether candid or posed. Authentic accounts may have social media profiles connected to the profile too. If a person doesn’t list many details on the app or seemingly match all of your interests, they may be too good to be true.

Your relationship moves fast

Most romance scammers want to move quickly before targets catch on or become suspicious. These individuals will commonly ask you to move off dating sites, share personal information, or make long-term commitments. Thieves will often try to gain your trust quickly, love bombing or professing their love for you very prematurely.

Pay attention to any messages that appear copy-and-pasted into the conversation, mainly when spelling or grammar don’t flow or make sense. If you ask to video or phone chat, they’ll often come up with different excuses.

They Continually Break Promises to Visit

Scammers want to keep their identities hidden but often promise to visit to keep their victims from pressuring them. The scam artist will almost always have a reason not to visit, canceling last minute with an elaborate explanation.

Scammers Always Need Money

When your online interest asks you for money before meeting in person, stay cautious. Most romance scammers will ask you to purchase items or send things to them – adding up to thousands of dollars. These purchases might include travel expenses, vehicle repairs, or medical bills. Scammers are shameless when it comes to sob stories, eventually tricking you into sending them money.

Your Money Has to Arrive in a Specific Way

If your love interest asks for money via preloaded gift cards, wire transfers, or newly created bank accounts, it’s likely a ploy to receive cash quickly while remaining anonymous. These are also tricky transactions to reverse. If you say no to their request, there’s a good chance your sweetheart will become desperate or aggressive with their tactics.

How to Avoid Romance Scammers

Always pay attention to red flags on dating profiles and unmatch them immediately when you notice them. Spend time building relationships slowly, ideally with phone or video chats. If something concerns you, ask someone you trust for a second opinion.

Keep communication on dating platforms if possible, especially when talking to someone initially. Until you’ve met someone several times in person, never send too many details about yourself. Avoid sending anyone cash, gifts, or purchasing items for them until you’ve had the opportunity to meet them in person. Avoid sending compromising pictures or videos online, even if you believe you’re exclusively dating.

Conclusion

Although everyone deserves to find love, connecting with someone shouldn’t cost you thousands of dollars. Love bombing, moving quickly, or making significant life promises (marriage, house, or children), are all signs of potentially catastrophic problems down the road. By staying aware of the warning signs and remaining guarded initially, you’ll be able to identify potential problems before you fall victim to scams.

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