Love is complicated enough without worrying if the person you’re falling for actually just approached you as a mark, and they are only in love with your bank balance. Romance scams are everywhere, whether you date in person or hook up online.
But this shouldn’t deter you from looking for love. You just need to be a little smarter and better informed to keep yourself safe while you search for the person who will make your heart beat a little quicker.
Here are a few important facts about romance scams, how to spot them, and what to do to outsmart the romance scammers.
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What Is a Romance Scammer?
A romance scammer is someone who uses the guise of seeking love and partnership with you so they can gain some form of financial benefit from manipulating you. Unlike sugar-baby arrangements, where both partners know it’s a relationship based on financial gain, a romance scam is about stealing your money or even blackmailing you for more money.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 2022 saw almost 70,000 U.S. citizens caught in a romance scam. Of course, this is only the number of cases that were actually reported, and most cases are not reported due to shame and people not knowing where or how to report when they have been scammed.
The average amount lost in a romance scam was upward of $4,400, which is not pocket change for most singles. While looking for love, people end up the victim of a romance scammer who temporarily fills their heart before emptying their bank balance.
Romance scammers can be individuals who find singles to target for a scam, syndicates that specialize in romance scams, or even dating sites that have chatbots and paid “singles” who try to make you spend credits and make the site money. But let’s look at romance scams in detail.
Types of Romance Scams to Watch out for
Several romance scams have made the rounds, and knowing what type of scam you are walking into can help you avoid getting scammed.
Know what to look out for with these scams:
A Military Romance
You’ve likely seen this type of scam, and it’s popular to get a handsome military man messaging you on social media, as well as on dating sites (read also: Facebook Romance & Dating Scams). This is a clear scam, where a scammer or syndicate has created a false profile or even cloned a real person’s profile to get you under their spell.
The military scammer will use deployment to some foreign country as an excuse to get money, transfer funds, and get documentation shipped. The U.S. military services have issued a warning against this scam.
Fake Dating Platforms
Syndicates may work an elaborate scam that involves setting up a dating site that seems legitimate, but the ladies on the site are all employees of the site. They will chat you up until you spend thousands on site credits, making the scammers rich, but never bringing you love.
Be sure to check out my detailed guides on blacklisted dating sites that you should avoid to stay safe from dating site scammers.
False Verification Scams
Another popular scam (especially on Tinder) is when you receive a text message asking you to click on a link to verify your dating profile. At the secondary site, you’ll be asked for personal information, which are used in fraudulent activities and to hack your social media accounts to perpetrate other crimes.
Redirecting to Secondary Sites
When dating, we all try to save on the costs of communicating with our beau, but it’s better to stay on the dating site to chat. If a love match tries to get you to communicate on a different site, they may be a scammer trying to get your details or guide you to a site with malware that steals your personal information.
Intimacy and Blackmail Scams
While you probably think you’d never do anything compromising for someone you’ve only recently met online, you may be surprised. Caught up in the passion (and fueled by intimate photos and videos of your scammer), you may end up exchanging nude selfies with your online lover.
The Best Way to Outsmart a Romance Scammer
The best way to avoid getting scammed and outsmart a scammer is to keep your wits about you. Don’t fall head over heels in love with someone who seems too good to be true. Sadly, when it seems too good, it’s usually not true.
To outsmart the scammer, ensure you have loads of evidence about the scammer, and that you don’t reveal compromising information about yourself.
Understanding Romance Scammer Tactics and Twarting Them
No matter the romance scam, there are a few tactics that you should watch out for as these show you the person you are wooing isn’t legitimate.
1. They Move Too Fast
If you “hit it off” from the start, it’s a potential red flag. Any real relationship takes time to build, but if you feel drawn into a passionate relationship that skips right through the relationship stages to full commitment in a few weeks, you have to wonder whether it’s real.
Solution: Slow things down. Discuss what’s happening with a friend you trust. Listen to your friend, as they may point out some warning signs you could have missed. Try slowing things down and see if your online beau pushes back, trying to keep momentum and pressuring you into commitment. If they do, walk away.
2. They Are Quick to “Do for You”
It’s nice to feel like someone is there for you. When you’ve been chatting or online dating someone and they always seem to “be there for you,” it could be a form of manipulation they are using to gain power over you. When they do get to “the ask” for money or information, you feel obliged to give it since your beau has “done so much” for you.
By doing things for you, the scammer is building emotional currency and a feeling of reciprocity toward them. You feel like you owe them, but really, they have just begun soft-soaping you into submission.
Solution: Be wary of someone who always seems to say the right thing or do just what you need them to do. If they overstep or seem overeager to get involved in your life, take a step back and consider their actions carefully.
3. They Want Personal Information
Ultimately, scammers want personal information. With your personal information they can access your banking details, make fraudulent withdrawals or borrow money, and they can use your identity to scam other unwitting people.
Even a simple request like sending a daily photo of yourself to your scammer can be used to perpetrate a more nefarious scam. While you want to get to know your potential lover, your warning flags should wave wildly if they ask for a video of you, a voice note, or a series of photos.
Even more scammy is when they insist they are shy and you need to share the information before they will share theirs.
Solution: Never share more than your profile picture with someone you are dating online. If they want to hear your voice or see more of you, it’s better to meet via a video call. Most scammers won’t easily agree to a video call, which is how you can root out a scammer.
4. Asking for Money or Help
When a scammer has cultivated some currency by doing stuff for you or being really supportive of your minor challenges, you may find they will ask for help or money. Initially, they may ask for a small amount, and they could even pay it back as agreed, which is how they build credibility.
Once you are comfortable loaning more money or sending them gifts, you could quickly walk down the road of being scammed out of your life’s savings.
Solution: The solution is to not lend money or send expensive gifts if you’re not happy to never receive that money back. And even then, you should avoid sending money in person. Even if your foreign partner asks for money to come to the U.S. (or wherever) to see you, it’s best to work through a foreign travel agency or the dating site’s services to make this happen. Don’t send money directly.
Dating and romance scams are all about getting you so invested that you’ll give them access to your life, money, and privacy. Most of us have a natural barrier to that, and we instinctively protect our assets. But the scammers have a golden key to the kingdom if they can gain your cooperation in being scammed.
Solution: When someone you’re dating online begins to overshare, be wary of them drawing you in so you’ll feel like you have to reciprocate with information about yourself. Remember that knowledge is power, so keep facts about your life, your personal information, and your data safe.
Final Words to Avoid Getting Scammed
The safest approach would be to treat all potential online matches as a scammer, but it’s difficult to start a romantic relationship like that.
So my final tip would be to simply stick to the basics to keep you save and outwit any scammers:
- Don’t overshare.
- Avoid sending money or doing favors.
- Keep your personal information private.
- When you’re unsure, ask a good friend for their opinion about a match.
- If it’s too good to be true, run for the hills (read also: TOP5 Online Dating Red Flags You Should Never Ignore).