The Basics of Romance Scams
Romance scams, also known as online dating scams, are amongst the most common scams on the internet. Millions of people every year use dating apps or social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to make connections and find love, but sometimes all they end up with is a broken heart and an empty wallet.
Lurking among this sea of potential partners are scammers who establish your trust over several months with the intention of stealing your hard earned money or obtaining personal information about you to steal your identity. Oftentimes, romance scammers will keep up the act for years, stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from their victims.
3 Common Tactics Used by Romance Scammers
A romance scammer’s main strategy is to create a fake profile using pictures of someone else. Once a connection has been established using this fake profile, they will use several other tactics to create trust, such as:
- Asking you to move communication off of the dating app where you met to avoid being flagged as suspicious or being monitored by the app’s customer service team for strange behavior. They’ll typically use excuses like their membership is ending or that it is easier to chat somewhere else.
- Showering you with over-the-top affection, flattery, gifts, and praise early on in the relationship to win over your affection and attention. This tactic, called love bombing, is used by the scammer to manipulate you into jumping into a relationship sooner and more seriously than you originally intended.
- Telling you that they are working or traveling outside of the United States, and using it to justify why they can’t visit or meet you in person. Scammers will often claim they are an offshore oil rig worker, a member of the military, or a doctor working internationally.
Common Stories Scammers Use to Steal Your Money
After gaining trust, credibility and your affection, scammers make up believable stories and ask you to help by sending money in the form of gift cards or money transfers. Some common stories include:
- The scammer claims they need money for plane tickets, travel expenses, a Visa or car repairs to come visit you.
- They ask for money to pay for surgery or medical expenses for themselves or family members.
- The scammer asks you to pay customs fees to retrieve something overseas like money or riches.
- They ask you to pay their phone bill or buy them a new laptop so they can continue communicating with you.
- They claim they need your help paying off their debts so that you can start your life together debt free.
- They say that their boss has paid them in money orders and asks you to cash the money orders and then wire the money to them.
If any of this sounds familiar, you may be involved in an online dating scam. Read on for tips and resources to recognize, report and recover from romance scams.