Online dating has become a popular and convenient way for singles to connect and start romantic relationships. Over 40 million have tried online dating, and 37% of relationships begin online. But with the popularity of online dating has come the rapidly growing incline of romance scams, which hit record highs in 2021 and are not showing any signs of slowing down. To read more about these alarming statistics, click here.
According to the FBI, "Romance scams occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim's affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim."
It would be inaccurate to say that only the young or naive fall victim to these scams. On the contrary, online daters of all ages and those across all professions are susceptible. Regardless of who they victimize, romance scammers often use emotions such as love, compassion, and trust to lower the victim's defenses and lure them into providing money or financial account information.
And unfortunately, this topic is not often discussed by many who have fallen victim to this growing and horrific crime. Undoubtedly this could be due to the embarrassment or shame people often feel after experiencing this. However, we are here to tell you that if you or anyone you know have fallen victim to this crude behavior and federal crime, you are not alone!
Read below for "red flags" to be aware of and things to do if you or someone you know has gotten scammed.
Warning Signs "Red Flags"
They quickly say, "I love you."
Often, a romance scammer will pledge their devotion to you or express words of adoration, including saying "I love you," within a relatively short amount of time and before actually meeting you.
They want to move the "chat" from the dating app
Be wary if the person you are speaking with is insistent on quickly moving the "chat" off the dating app and requesting to begin corresponding via the phone or email. If you agree to move the chat, we suggest you avoid providing any of your primary contact information. For example, you could generate a new email address for corresponding or consider using an instant messaging app instead of giving your phone number. Giving your personal information makes it much easier for someone less than worthy of taking advantage of you.
They always have an excuse
The time has come! You are both excited to meet in person and see if the connection is as authentic as it feels online. However, each time the plans are in place, something comes up. Emergencies such as getting deployed, having to take an unexpected business trip, or an illness has made them unable to meet. If scenarios such as these repeatedly happen, BEWARE!
"I have outstanding hospital bills,"
"If I could just get a loan, I could travel out and meet you,"
"My family member passed away suddenly, and we need money for their funeral."
These are just some excuses you might hear when you are possibly getting scammed. It might seem awful to question the integrity of someone you're connecting with and who seems to need your help. Still, in today's world, you should take a moment before acting to evaluate the claim to help prevent being taken advantage of. It is essential to tread with caution if the person you are speaking to asks for money or tries to make you feel guilty for not helping them out. As a rule of thumb, never send cash, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to someone you've never met or are not 100% certain you can trust.
How to Avoid Getting Scammed
Ask a lot of questions.
Taking it slow and asking several questions while watching out for inconsistencies is one way to help determine if what you're hearing is the truth.
Conduct a background search
This simple step can save you time and heartbreak! Check out BeenVerified to help you out with this! You can type in information such as a first and last name, email address, or phone number to look up a person's public records and make sure what they're telling you matches up! Another helpful feature, Google, has an image search feature, an excellent resource for finding where else that person's picture might pop up on the internet! Click here to access specifications and start using this resource.
Look at the U.S. Army checklist for romance scammers
Sadly, many scammers will use "being in the service" as one of the reasons they cannot meet in person or the reason they need money wired to an overseas bank account. However, the U.S. Army provides a list of helpful things to look out for if the person you're talking to claims to be in the U.S. military. To view the U.S. Army's checklist, please click here.
Don't let your guard down because you "found" them
Don't let your guard down because you slid into their D.M.s first! There are many fake profiles created just waiting for their prey to bite. So no matter who said what or contacted who first, be careful about giving away any personal information, such as your last name, phone number, address, place of employment, etc.
What to do if You Get Scammed (Or think you might be)
• Stop communicating with the person immediately.
• Contact Matadors Community Credit Union if you feel they might have access to your account information.
• Report your experience to:
- Online Dating App
- Law Enforcement
- Federal Trade Commission: ftc.gov/complaint
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: ic3.gov