Romance scams are carried out by sophisticated criminals and cons. These people often create fake dating site profiles and identities. They may reach out to you via a dating app you’ve signed up for, or you may even reach out to them based on their profile.
Once you start talking, the person might ask to communicate with you via text, phone, or some other means that don’t involve the dating site. Before long, they’re asking for your bank account to send you money, or they ask for you to wire them some funds.
Instead of potentially meeting your next relationship, you’ve met up with a romance scammer. The predators can fool people of all ages, although middle-aged and older adults tend to be popular targets.
To help you avoid getting scammed, we’ve put together a list of common techniques romance scammers use and what you should look out for.
Is This Person for Real?
Dating and putting yourself out there produces enough anxiety and self-doubt. You don’t need to get caught up in a romance scam to plunge your confidence any further. According to AARP, here are some of the warning signs the person you’re talking to might be a fake.
- Their picture looks too polished. It doesn’t look like someone you would meet on the street but looks like a fashion model or an actor’s headshot. Granted, there are plenty of people who are attractive, but if the picture doesn’t look like it was taken with a smartphone or an everyday camera, it probably doesn’t belong to the person who created the profile.
- The person is always traveling or away from home on business. Or they’re stationed overseas on assignment. They promise to meet up with you in person, but it never happens.
- Things start to move really quickly, and the person insists on communicating with you using some other method than the dating site or app.
- The person gives you a lot of attention. They want to talk or send you messages all the time.
Red Flags to Watch for
The signs and characteristics listed above don’t always mean you’re talking to a scammer. Sometimes people who are looking for legitimate relationships do actually travel on business, become overenthusiastic, or use professional photos online. However, there are some red flags that almost always mean you’re dealing with a romance scam.
If someone asks for money, a wire transfer, or a gift card, you can bet this is not someone looking for a real relationship. Especially if you’ve never met them in person and have only been talking for a short time.
The person might also ask for sensitive information like your address, birth date, or social security number. They may be more subtle and ask for email login information or online credentials for other types of private accounts.
The FTC warns the scammer may ask for money to pay for things like gambling debts, custom fees, travel expenses, and medical bills. Sometimes scammers say they need the money for a family member or friend. Or they say they’re stuck somewhere and need the money to get home or out of a bad situation.
According to the FTC, scammers are more likely to ask for money in the form of gift cards, prepaid debit cards, or wire transfers. That’s because these types of transactions are more difficult to cancel out.
While it’s easy to dispute a transaction with your bank or credit card company, it’s nearly impossible to get your money back on a used gift or prepaid debit card.
Steps You Can Take
Remaining vigilant and aware are key to stopping romance scams in their tracks. When conversing with people online, go at a slow pace. Ask plenty of questions and see if the responses remain consistent.
You can also perform a reverse image search on Google to verify whether the person’s profile picture is legitimate. If you suspect the person you’re talking to is a scammer, cut off contact immediately and report the profile to the dating site.
Also, be careful about what you reveal about yourself and what pictures you send to someone. Never send money or gifts to someone you don’t know in person.