Romance Scams

If you are the victim of a romance scam, you are not alone. Learn how to recognize, report and recover from these types of scams.

Step 1:Recognize

Red Flags of an Online Dating Scam

When you are falling in love, it can be easy for anyone to let their heart do the thinking, often not catching these common red flags. If you think you’ve been involved in an online dating scam, compare your situation with the following red flags:

  • Their messages are poorly written, inconsistent, or vague.
  • They ask you to start communicating by text or personal email, away from the original site you met on.
  • After just a short amount of time, they profess their love or strong feelings for you.
  • Their online dating profile doesn’t match what they tell you.
  • After gaining your trust, they start telling you stories of bad luck or illnesses.
  • They indirectly or directly ask for money, especially in the form of gift cards or wire transfer, for things like medical bills, emergencies, car troubles or travel expenses to come visit you.
  • They offer various excuses trying to explain why they can’t show you more photos of themselves or speak with you on video chat.
  • They always make excuses as to why they can’t meet in person.
  • When you do agree to meet, they cancel or postpone.

Step 2:Immediate Actions

If you think you are the victim of a dating scam, it is important to take action right away to protect yourself and your finances. Here are some steps to take if you think you have been scammed:

  • Gather any information you can about the scam, such as messages, pictures, profile screenshots and receipts, if you sent money. You may need to provide this information to law enforcement if you file a report.
  • Stop all contact with that individual and block their phone number, email address, dating accounts and social media accounts.
  • Report their profile to the dating or social media platform where you first made contact. (i.e., eHarmony, Hinge, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • If you sent gift cards or wire transfers, contact the issuer. They may be able to help you stop the transaction.
  • If you provided financial information, like your credit card number or bank account information, contact your bank or credit card company right away. They may be able to help you cancel transactions or get your money back.
  • If you provided personal information, like your Social Security number, you may be at risk for identity theft. Keep an eye on your credit report and financial accounts for any unusual activity, and consider placing a freeze on your credit.
  • Reach out to a friend, family member or counselor who can help you with the emotional difficulties.

Step 3:Report

Reporting any type of cybercrime, including romance scams, is imperative to help others avoid being scammed. As a society, the more people that report online scams and fraud, the more national reporting data that is collected, and the better chance law enforcement has to catch the criminals and decrease cybercrime.

Step 4:Recover

Learn the Three Golden Rules to Spot a Scam

Scammers often utilize tactics to encourage you to act quickly and will use false information to persuade you to send money or personally identifiable information (PII). When faced with a questionable situation online, always follow the three golden rules to spot a scam:

Slow it down — Romance scammers often create a sense of urgency. They may quickly profess their love to you or ask you to send money right away for an emergency. Take your time and ask questions to avoid being rushed into a bad situation.

Spot check — Do your research to double check the details you’re getting. Often scammers will set up accounts using stolen photos from the internet or they will tell you details that don’t match their dating profile. Search for their name or their photo to verify that they are who they say they are, and always compare what they are telling you to their dating profile.

Stop! Don’t send — Romance scammers will try to steal your money by asking you to pay for car repairs, send money for an emergency or ask you to fund travel expenses to come visit. If they insist you send the money in gift cards or by wire transfer, it’s a scam.

Take 5 Steps for Better Online Security

Along with making sure you follow the three golden rules to spot a scam, it’s important to strengthen your online security to help avoid all types of online scams. Take action to improve your digital posture by following these steps:

  1. Implement Multi Factor Authentication (MFA): Passwords are generally easy for scammers to crack, and even if you use strong passphrases, there’s still the possibility that a cybercriminal can obtain your passphrase in a data breach. Implementing MFA is a great way to maximize your security and ensure that you are the only one who can gain access to your accounts. MFA should be implemented on all accounts where it is available. Check your account’s security settings to see if it is something you can set up.
  2. Update Your Privacy Settings: Privacy settings allow you to control your personal information (name, address, phone number, date of birth, financial details, photos or videos, etc) and how that information is used. Review your privacy settings on all of your accounts including your social media accounts. Consider restricting who can see your friends list, contacts, photos and posts.
  3. Activate Automatic Updates: Automatic updates are a set of changes to an app, software or operating system that are automatically pushed by the developer to fix or improve it. Oftentimes, cybercriminals take advantage of security flaws to plant malicious software on your devices. By activating automatic updates, you will automatically patch security vulnerabilities to protect your data.
  4. Use a Password Manager or Create Strong Passphrases: A password manager is a software tool that securely stores all of your login credentials in one place, allowing you to create and manage strong, unique passwords for all of your accounts. If you are unable to afford a password manager, use strong passphrases. A passphrase is a combination of random words or a sentence that is much longer and more complex than a typical password. Using a passphrase instead of a password makes it much harder for hackers to guess or brute-force their way into your accounts.
  5. Learn the Elements of a Phishing Attempt: Familiarize yourself with the elements of a phishing email. Phishing emails tend to include a sense of urgency and multiple grammar and spelling errors. If they are asking you to reveal personal information, be suspicious. If you get a strange email, try contacting the company another way to confirm they sent that email. If the email is suspicious, mark it as spam.

TestimonialHear from Other Victims

Without, I don't know if I would have been able to react as quickly to protect my personal information.
Mary - Indianapolis, IN