Who’s the target?
People of all ages, often older adults
How does it happen?
As the popularity of online dating has grown, so has the frequency of romance fraud. Scammers go to great lengths to create plausible and realistic fake profiles on social media and online dating platforms. Most commonly, the scammer will initiate by sending you a message on social media, an online forum, or dating app. This person will often seem like the perfect match, paying you compliments, and claiming to be quickly falling in love with you. Unfortunately, they can’t meet in person yet because they claim to be an international worker, an oil rigger, or a member of the military and are located outside of the country.
Once they’ve gained your trust, an emergency expense will occur that they need your help paying. Often this is presented as a medical expense or family emergency, or maybe they need funds to visit you. However, the emergency is fabricated, and once you send them these funds in the form of gift cards, wires, or cryptocurrency transfers, the crisis passes and another one arises. Because you are emotionally invested in the false relationship, the stories seem believable. Ultimately, the scammer is using this trust to steal from you. If you’ve divulged your personal information to them, they may attempt to steal your identity or commit other scams. They can continue this pattern until you run out of money, or they suspect you are on to them, in which case they can disappear entirely.
- They are quick to advance the relationship and “fall in love”
- They live/work in another country, and cannot meet in person
- They ask you for money for a family emergency, medical expenses, or travel
- They instruct you to send funds through wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency
How can we stay safe?
- On social media, don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know
- Run it past someone you trust. Are family and friends concerned about this person?
- As soon as you suspect someone, cut off contact immediately and do your own research
If you think you have been scammed:
- Contact your financial institutions as soon as possible
- If you’ve given the scammer any of your account passwords or PINs, change them immediately
- File a report on FTC.gov
- Contact the Social Security Fraud Hotline (if applicable)