How to Protect Yourself Against Online Romance Scams?
The annual number of victims of online romance scams is hundreds of thousands. It is estimated that more than $230 million is lost in the U.S. alone each year. But only 15 percent of crimes of this kind are reported, and the true losses are approximately three times higher. This money won’t be recovered in most cases.
Often called an online dating scam, a romance scam takes advantage of people by tricking them into believing they’re in a romantic relationship. They are actually being blackmailed by a cybercriminal who is posing as the “other half” in order to earn enough trust from their victims to ask for money.
Dating sites and apps are often where the advances start. The trend has also spread to social media.
Romance scams on the rise
- About half of the scam reports made to the FTC so far this year have involved social media. People reported nearly $117 million in losses from scams that started on social media in the first half of 2020, a record high. The Federal Trade Commission (October 2020)
- Since 2015, the FTC has received nearly triple the number of romance scam complaints. Accessed March 2020 (FTC)
- The FTC received over 25,000 reports of romance scams last year. In February 2020 (FTC)
- In 2019, the FBI received the most reports of confidence/romance scams. Report on Internet Crime by FBI (2019)
- The number of people who were victims of confidence/romance scams in 2019 was nearly 20,000. Report on Internet Crime by FBI (2019)
The real price tags of online dating
- According to the FTC, romance scam losses were the highest of any scam in 2019. Accessed March 2020 (FTC)
- Romance scams cost people $201 million in 2019. Five years prior, it was $33 million, six times as much. Accessed March 2020 (FTC)
- There were reportedly 2,600 romance scam losses in 2018. February 2019 (FTC)
- Romance scams had a sevenfold higher median loss than all other types of fraud combined in 2018. February 2019 (FTC)
- Scams involving cryptocurrency earned $3,000 more in median losses than romance scams. Scam Tracker Report (BBB 2019)
- Approximately $475 million was lost to victims of romance and confidence scams in 2019. Report on Internet Crime by FBI (2019)
Online dating scams and older adults
- The risk of romance scams is greatest among those between 55 and 64 years of age. Scam Tracker Report (BBB 2019)
- The romance scams cost older adults nearly $84 million in 2019. Government imposter scams accounted for $61 million. Protection of Older Consumers (FTC 2019-2020)
- Among older adults, 68% of the lost dollars were sent via wire transfer. (FTC, Protecting Older Consumers Report, 2019-2010)
- Almost a third of the money older adults reported wiring to scammers was sent via wire transfers in connection with romance scams. (FTC, Protecting Older Consumers Report, 2019-2010)
Who’s most susceptible to romance scams
- It is estimated that 54% of romance scam targets are susceptible to them. Scam Tracker Report (BBB 2019)
- Romance scams are more prevalent among women. Women are at risk of romance scams second only to employment scams. Scam Tracker Report (BBB 2019)
- Romance scams are most common in the Midwest, where the median loss per individual is $115. Scam Tracker Report (BBB 2019)
- Among Californians, the largest loss to dating scams in 2018 was $450 million. Other states losing the most included Texans, New Yorkers, Texans, North Carolinians, Floridians NPR (National Public Radio)
- New Yorkers, Texans, Floridians, and Virginians were the states most affected by dating scams in 2018, followed by Californians with 49,000 victims. NPR (National Public Radio)
What are the signs you’re being scammed?
It is possible for scammers to spin stories to entice their victims. Red flags, however, can help you identify them more easily. A few of these are:
- Rather than communicating through dating websites, they prefer to communicate in other ways. In most cases, they’ll suggest that you switch to text messaging, calling, or instant messaging
- Questions about your personal life are asked a lot
- Question about their personal lives is avoided. They seem to make up or embellish the details they give you. It may be true that they claim to have a university education, but their spelling and grammar are poor
- Fast bonds are forged between them. A pet name may be assigned to you or a statement may be made that ‘this is the first time that this feels like this’
- Finances are requested. In addition, they may frequently bring up money troubles in an attempt to get your help
- There is no personal contact. Sadly, they may promise to meet up with you, but then cancel or offer excuses when they can’t.
- The profile photo of theirs appears to belong to someone else when you do a reverse image search.
To ensure you do not fall for scams, you can follow these 11 steps:
1. If someone friend requests you on Facebook, make sure you know them.
Make sure that the person who claims to be your friend shares friends with you. If a Facebook profile only shows a few friends or a few personal photos, you should not trust it. They may be new to social media, so you don’t see much of them, but their profile indicates they exist.
2. Keep the conversation on the dating site.
If someone you just met walked away from the chat feature of a dating site for another messaging platform, that should be a red flag. In the city, police are on high alert for people who are being purged. They keep everything together, however, in order to keep things simple. Scammers frequently use these apps.
3. Check their photos.
Use the free Google Image Search to see if the images have appeared anywhere else. The search box now allows you to drag pictures or upload them.
As soon as the image is posted online, it will appear on Google. When the email address appears on a scam list, you can see if someone else may have used it with a different name.
4. Investigate what they tell you about themselves.
Look them up on Google. Make sure they are telling you the truth. Digital footprints are becoming more and more important these days, in and of themselves. You can check marriage and divorce records.
Public information about property ownership exists. Records of criminal activity are also important. To conduct a search, Spokeo and other services charge fees. Investing a little now could save you a lot later.
5. See if the text of their messages appears elsewhere.
Scripts are literally read by romance scammers. (Scamwarners offers some popular ones.) If you’re worried you are being scammed, copy an email from a friend and search the content on Google. There are other links with similar or identical language. Definitely something to look out for.
6. Invite your new friend to video chat with you.
It may be easier to identify a scammer by chatting with them through Skype, Facetime or Messenger. Unless they are hiding their faces, scammers do not like to talk live. Why would they do that when they do not exist?
7. Verify where a photo was really taken.
The photo of your suitor taken in an Ohio backyard might be suspicious if he claims to be from California. The website can tell you when and where an image was taken, among other things. (Some social networks remove the relevant photo metadata, which breaks this feature.)
8. Beware of “soldiers” asking for money.
Money troubles are certainly a problem for those in the military. Scammers steal and use military photos frequently. Normally, a real U.S. soldier will not need money to cover transportation costs, medical costs, or administrative costs.
9. Check where the emails come from.
An IP address identifies the country of assignment for every computer, smartphone and tablet. There is a header on every email that reveals the IP address of the device sending it. The header can be found here, and you can analyze it.
10. If you’ve been scammed, report it.
Complain at the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center if you believe you have been the victim of a romance scam. Most victims do not come forward, the bureau estimates.
11. Always remember never transfer money to online strangers.
You just shouldn’t. Make sure your friend or relative knows about the request.
Types of Online Dating Scams
The following are the two most common online dating scams that directly affect dating participants:
It is not uncommon to hear of romance scammers using sweet talk to rob their victims. Online dating pitfalls usually come to people’s minds when they think about the potential pitfalls.
Social media platforms, as well as dating sites, are frequent venues for these scams. You can still suffer from dating scams even if you’re not a regular on a dating website.
It has been reported that people have fallen for extortion, especially when they start talking, sharing photos, or using webcams.
How does the next step proceed? As soon as the scammer knows the victim’s children, family members, friends, or co-workers will see the content, he asks for money.
How to Report a Romance Scam?
The websites where fake dating profiles are posted should be notified. By closing fraudulent accounts, the sites will be able to identify and remove them.
The feeling of falling in love is among the most wonderful experiences in life. It’s important to make sure someone isn’t just trying to get your information or your bank account before you let them steal your heart.
Do you have questions? For more information on online dating scams and tips for safeguarding yourself in the online dating world, you may contact us.