How to Protect Yourself from Online Romance Scams
by Carolyn Lee Feb 5, 2024
Online dating has exploded in popularity over the past few years, and some people are finding true love. Although dating apps and social media networks have made meeting new people more accessible, there are a few disadvantages. Some people are targeted by romance scammers and suffer heartbreak and financial loss. We have tips to help you spot romance scammers and what you can do to protect yourself from them.
What is a romance scam?
Romance scammers use dating apps, gaming websites, and social media platforms to create fake profiles and contact unsuspecting people. Online romance scams are meticulously planned schemes that include various stages. The goal of online romance scammers is to successfully extort significant amounts of money from their victims and then disappear. An online romance scammer can wait months or years to build this trust.
How to identify romance scammers.
A romance scammer typically joins social media, a dating app, or a gaming platform to target divorcees, widowers, or people who appear lonely or searching for love. They will connect with you and follow up by engaging in conversation regularly to build trust and create the impression that they are attracted to you.
You can identify a scammer by paying attention to their online profile, which may not confirm what they’ve told you about themselves. They might offer to teach you about cryptocurrency or talk about finances frequently. Once they’ve established a relationship, they may encourage you to send them intimate photos or videos of you under the guise of being spontaneous and adventurous.
After a while, the scammer might create a crisis or emergency to manipulate you into giving financial assistance. Some scammers might threaten to use sensitive pictures or personal information you shared with them to blackmail you into giving them money.
Most scammers work in groups. Your initial contact might offer to send you a gift and then make videos or send pictures of them purchasing the item at the store to convince you they bought it. Then, someone else might call and pose as a bank or government agency representative to extract money from you to clear charges on the gift you were sent.
What are some tactics scammers use?
During the initial stages of contact, a scammer might express deep feelings while trying to accelerate the relationship. Then, they will try to switch to an offsite platform (WhatsApp, Telegram, etc.) to continue the conversation. The scammer will encourage you to keep your relationship a secret so they can isolate you from your loved ones. Another tactic a scammer might use is to tell you that they live in a remote area with weak internet connectivity, so you never see them on camera.
How can you protect yourself from romance scammers?
Online romance scammers can be charming and adept at what they do. However, there are some precautions you can take when talking to strangers online.
- Never mention financial information, including where you work, salary, savings, or inheritance.
- Do not send money, intimate photos, or videos to people you’ve not met or seen on camera.
- Some scammers operate in non-Western countries while claiming to live in English-speaking countries. So, pay attention to spelling and grammar.
- Confide in your loved ones if you become suspicious of your online romantic interest.
- Use image and name-reverse searches to help with locating where your online love interest might be.
- Independently research anyone who calls you and asks for financial compensation to collect gifts by claiming to represent a bank or government organisation.
We hope these tips help. If you have shared personal information or sent money to someone you believe might be a romance scammer, contact the relevant authorities (bank, police, fraud agency, etc.). You can use Find Yello to search for organisations and businesses with the appropriate services you need.
Sources: FTC Consumer Advice, National Anti-Scam Centre, The Conversation, and Action Fraud.