According to the Federal Trade Commission, online romance scams are on the rise with $304 million being lost to scams in 2020 alone. If you are using online dating apps, websites or social media sites, it’s important to know how romance scams work so you can avoid being catfished and/or scammed.
Millions of people across the country use online dating tools each year – and many of the profiles that appear are criminals using fake online identities. They use fake profile photo and life stories to form romantic attachments with unsuspecting victims and a variety of schemes to scam them out of money.
Warning signs of a romance scam may include:
- The scammer professes love quickly
- They claim to be from the U.S., but overseas for business or military service
- They claim to need money for emergencies, hospital bills, travel, gambling debts, or other needs
- The person plans to visit, but doesn’t follow through because of an emergencies or other circumstances
Romance scammers have become more sophisticated and are often patient, making it harder for victims to know when they are in this situation. Steps to protect yourself can include:
- If they ask for money, it’s a scam. Never send money to anyone you have never met in person.
- Slow down and take your time. Don’t let a scammer rush you.
- Talk to someone you trust about the online romance. A third party can often point out red flags that you may have missed.
- Never wire money from your bank account, buy gift cards, or send money to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.
- Be careful about what you post online. Scammers may use this information learn more about you or pose as you.
View more information and resources regarding romance schemes at www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/common-scams-and-crimes/romance-scams or www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/what-you-need-know-about-romance-scams.
If you believe you are a victim of a romance scam, report your experience to the online dating site you used, to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint and to the FBI at www.ic3.gov. Contact your financial institution immediately if you sent any money or personal information, such as your account or online banking information, to a potential scammer.