Spotting Romance Scams and How to Avoid Them
Are your alarm bells ringing? Is your online crush asking you for money or does your friend seem caught up in a too good to be true online relationship?
Online romance scams are the most commonly reported cybercrime in the US, costing Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year. On average, victims of romance scams lose $2500 to their catfish.
Don’t let yourself and your friends get fooled by these manipulative scammers. Learn to recognize the red flags of an online dating scam to keep yourself and your hard-earned money safe.
What Is an Online Romance Scam?
In a romance scam, scammers create fake online profiles and contact their victims online to defraud them of money. The scammer pretends to fall in love with their victim and once trust is built, they manipulate the victim into sending them money.
Most romance scammers are active on social media platforms such as Instagram and Facebook but they are also active on online dating sites and apps. Usually, they create a profile that is too good to be true and then quickly escalate the relationship once contact is established.
They try to convince their victim that they have never felt this way about a person, that the distance is only temporary and they will find a way to be together no matter what. However, something always comes up to keep you apart.
Then they ask you to send them money. It is an emergency, they were in a bad accident, someone in their family is sick, they lost their creditcards, they are in a money crunch right now but will pay you back in no time. None of these stories are the truth.
It is all a ploy to make their victim feel like they have found the love of their life. Only they are probably running several romance scams at once.
How to Spot a Romance Scam
There are several telltale signs of a romance scams. Ring the alarm if you notice any of these red flags.
Their Profile Looks Fake
Ironically, romance scammers aren’t the best at creating online dating profiles. Since they want to keep their identity a secret and often use stolen photos, the information on their profile is limited.
Their profile descriptions often lacks personality, something that anyone could write but filled with unusual grammar and spelling mistakes. A bright red flag is if you have read the exact same text on a different profile.
The Match Is Too Perfect
Dating sites sell themselves as the place where you will find the match of your dreams. However, there might also be scammers online that create a profile to perfectly match yours.
Although it is definitely possible that you have common interests and experiences, it is very rare to find someone that meets ALL your demands. Be wary of anyone that is just too good to be true.
They Are Based Far Away
The very reason why the more respectable dating apps have a maximum distance is to avoid romance scams. If you match with someone that claims to be abroad, ask yourself how their profile could still pop up.
There are a few common excuses for why they are abroad. They are in the military, they work in the oil or construction industry, they are volunteering, taking care of needy family or on a business trip.
They Won’t Answer Your (Video) Call
At some point, you want to connect with your online crush more than just via text. However, when you try to call or video call them they are always unable to answer.
Romance scammers do this to hide their identity. It is very difficult to pretend to be someone else when you are facing a camera.
They Cancel Plans to Meet
Sometimes life happens but when they continually come up with excuses for why they can’t meet you, it becomes suspicious. Of course, a romance scammer can never meet their victim in person despite how much they say they hate being apart.
Scammers will continuously make plans with you to meet – this is to get you excited and to give you the impression that they are too. But if they never actually make it, there is no real intention to come.
They Ask for Money
The final step in an online romance scam is asking for money and in most cases via wire transfer because those are very hard to track. Watch out for any account names that aren’t theirs, they might say they’re using the account of a family member or friend.
The money is for an emergency, something they need your help with but they will pay you back very soon. They might even play with your feelings by saying that if you truly trust and love them that you would do this for them.
How to Avoid a Romance Scam
Knowing the signs is the first step in avoiding a romance scam. These extra safety measures will help your online dating experience safe.
Stop Contact When It Feels Off
Sometimes you just get a feeling that something is not quite right. Trust your gut and stop chatting with that person.
If anything about their profile, the way they message or their photos doesn’t seem legit then your best bet is a swipe left. There are plenty of other REAL singles that could make you happy.
Call & Videocall to Confirm
Romance scammers prefer to only text with their victims. It gives them more time to plan their answers and better hide their identity.
That is why one of the best ways to flush out the fakes is to give them a call. If they never seem to answer then they have something to hide from you.
Don’t Share Your Financials
Your date doesn’t need to know what you make each month. They definitely have no reason to know your financial details.
Never share anything too personal with someone you met online. They might just be fishing for information that they can use to scam you.
Never Send Money
It is not okay for an online match to hit you up with a venmo. You are also not the person they should be turning to when they are in financial trouble.
Since most scammers claim they are abroad, you can refer them to the embassy in that country – part of their post is to help their citizens abroad. Ignore the dramatic stories and tell them to sort it out for themselves.
Report Their Profile
Convinced that you are dealing with a romance scammer? Don’t hesitate to report them to the dating site or app but also to the authorities.
Although it may be hard to trace an online scammer, the authorities, like the FBI, may be able to put you in touch with people that can help you recover. The more they know about the running scams, the better they will be able to prevent them.