Online Romance Scams: How to Protect Yourself from the Growing Concern

how to protect yourself from online romance scams

Over the past few years, online dating has emerged as a highly popular method for discovering long-lasting love or romantic connections. However, as with any widely embraced trend, it has also opened doors for online romance scams. Recent reports indicate that people have lost a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams in the last five years alone, with a record-breaking $547 million in 2021. This astronomical figure represents an 80% surge from the previous year and is six times higher than the reported losses in 2017. On average, victims of online investment and dating scams found themselves deprived of approximately $2,400.

The allure of romance scams lies in the scammers’ ability to skillfully mask their identities and intentions. They commonly employ fabricated profiles, using photos sourced from the internet or stolen from genuine individuals. Additionally, scammers adeptly craft personalized personas by studying their targets’ online information, allowing them to pose as the ideal companion. These deceptive personas often incorporate elements that conveniently excuse the scammer from meeting in person. For instance, a fraudster might falsely claim to be stationed abroad as military personnel or working on an offshore oil rig.

Dating app users are frequently targeted by romance scammers, although some individuals who were not actively seeking romantic involvement have also fallen victim to these schemes via social media platforms. Surprisingly, around one-third of romance scam victims in 2021 were initially contacted through Instagram or Facebook.

Scammers employ various convincing narratives to defraud their targets, but their common modus operandi often revolves around financial or health crises. These crises tend to persist indefinitely as long as the victims continue to provide monetary support. Scammers may fabricate stories about sick family members or children, or falsely claim to have fallen victim to scams themselves, seeking assistance. They may also try to gain the victim’s trust by asserting a need for help in accessing an inheritance from a foreign relative or requesting assistance in facilitating a lucrative business transaction. In many cases, victims unwittingly become conduits for money laundering schemes, mistakenly believing they are simply providing assistance. They may also be tricked into sending their own funds, and these fictitious transfers often involve exorbitant fees, with victims naively anticipating repayment in the future.

Another prevalent tactic in 2021 involved scammers enticing victims with fraudulent or nonexistent cryptocurrency investments. Victims were led to believe that their newfound online acquaintance possessed extensive knowledge of cryptocurrencies or was a successful investor, and were encouraged to invest substantial sums of their savings based on false advice. Subsequently, the scammers would vanish, taking the invested funds with them, as the investments never materialized in the first place.

Warning Signs that You May Be Falling Victim to Online Romance Scams

Recently we spoke with the Toronto private investigation agency, Haywood Hunt & Associates Inc. to ask them what they’ve found to be the main signs of Romance Scams. Here are their top 6 warning signs that any online dater needs to be aware of: 

  1. They’re geographically distant: Romance scammers often create fictional backgrounds to justify their inability to meet in person. Common stories include claiming to work on an oil rig, being deployed in the military overseas, serving as a doctor in an international organization, or working on a construction project outside the country. Pay attention to inconsistencies in their story, as their tales may be captivating but not entirely truthful.
  2. Their profile appears too good to be true: Authentic dating profiles typically feature several photos of the person in different situations, including full-body images, not just close-ups of their face. They may also provide links to their Instagram or Facebook accounts. Conversely, if a dating profile lacks details or their interests and hobbies remarkably align with yours, it could be a sign of a fake profile.
  3. The relationship progresses rapidly: Scammers in online dating aim to establish trust quickly before their targets become suspicious. They employ various tactics, such as professing love at an unusually fast pace, proposing marriage prematurely, making promises of future meetings, or suggesting a shift in communication away from the dating site. Moving conversations to external platforms may compromise safety features offered by the dating site, and sharing personal contact information could complicate ending communication. Be cautious of conversations exhibiting the following warning signs: generic messages that could apply to anyone, incoherent dialogue, poor grammar and spelling, or evasiveness when asked to video chat.
  4. They consistently break promises to visit: Romance scammers strive to maintain their anonymity. To prevent you from questioning their identity, they may make plans to visit you but cancel at the last minute, providing elaborate excuses for their sudden inability to meet.
  5. They request money: If someone you’ve met online asks for money, especially before meeting in person, exercise caution. Romance scammers may request funds for travel expenses like plane tickets or visas, medical procedures, gambling debts, or supposed family/personal emergencies. They often accompany these requests with sob stories designed to manipulate your emotions. Beware of another potential scam wherein scammers send you money, roping you into becoming a “money mule” by asking you to deposit funds into your bank account, distribute the money to others, or deliver packages, all of which could be linked to money laundering.
  6. They specify certain payment methods: Be wary if your online sweetheart insists on receiving money through wire transfers, preloaded gift cards, or by setting up a bank account in your name. These methods allow scammers to acquire cash quickly while remaining anonymous, and reversing the transactions becomes challenging. Additionally, scammers may request additional payments, and if you refuse, their messages might become desperate and aggressive.

By staying vigilant and recognizing these warning signs, you can protect yourself from falling victim to online romance scams seeking to exploit your trust and emotions.

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Josie Smith
Josie Smith
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1 Comment

  1. luis dwane
    June 22, 2023 / 10:20 pm

    I hired a private investigator who helped me, Who helped me recover over $98,000.00 from online fake forex and binary options investment platforms. Documenting all that has happened is very important. The world would be better if we did not have thieves and people who create scams aiming to steal from us. The best move anyone can make is to educate themselves about possible scams and the way they work because they are everywhere and to be intelligent in the decisions made by them and the information they provide. you can get in touch with him through WhatsApp, if your in need of the same (+1 701 610 9081 or cyberhelpline10 @ outlook com)