A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person gets tricked into believing they’re in a romantic relationship with someone they met online, when in fact their other half is a cybercriminal using a fake identity to gain enough trust to ask — or blackmail — them for money.
Oftentimes, a romance scammer starts on dating sites or apps. But scammers have increasingly started finding targets on social media, too.
After connecting with someone through a fake profile, the scammer will strike up a conversation and start building a relationship by regularly chatting with them. Once they start to trust the romance scammer and believe they have a truthful relationship, the cybercriminal will make up a story, ask them for money, and vanish.
Types of Romance Scams
Some of the most common internet dating scams include:
Fake Dating Sites: Scam dating sites claim to be legitimate but are actually filled with scammers or underpopulated. These websites are created to mine your information.
Photo Scams: Scammers will convince their target to send their personal information in exchange for intimate photos.
Military Romance Scams: The scammer will pose as a military member, likely deployed. They build trust by using military jargon and titles, then ask for money to cover military-related expenses, such as flights home.
Intimate Activity Scams: The scammer connects with their target on multiple social media websites. Once they become closer, the scammer convinces them to undress and then threatens them with the recordings.
Code Verification Scams: Scammers will send a fake verification code through email or text, posing to be a dating app or website. Once clicked on, it will ask for their personal information, including Social Security number and credit cards.
Inheritance Scams: Scammers will make their target believe they need to get married in order to get their inheritance. In this case, they will ask them to help pay for something like airfare.
Malware Scams: Malware is also common on dating sites. In this case, the recipient will interact with a scammer who sends them a website that looks legitimate; however, it's a page that includes malware.
Tips To Avoid Losing Money To a Romance Scam
- Protect yourself and older loved ones by raising awareness. Although this can be an uncomfortable topic, make sure you, your family and your friends are familiar with romance scams. The more you know about these scams, the better prepared you are to prevent being a victim.
- Check in on older loved ones. Scammers are seeking to target those living alone or grieving the loss of a spouse as they are more vulnerable.
- Limit what you share online.Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Do your research.Research the individual’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name or other details have been used elsewhere.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.Don’t let the individual rush you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Listen to your gut.If the individual seems too good to be true, talk to someone you trust.
- Don’t overshare personal information.Requests for inappropriate photos or financial information could later be used to extort you.
- Be suspicious if you haven’t met in person.If the individual promises to meet in person, but consistently comes up with an excuse for cancelling, be suspicious.
- Don’t send money.Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
Think you’ve been scammed?
- Stop communicating with the individual immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust and describe what’s going on.
- Report the incident to local law enforcement.
- Submit a fraud complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
Dating scams can have devastating consequences on individuals seeking love and companionship online. It's crucial to be aware of the red flags and take necessary precautions to protect yourself from falling victim to these fraudulent schemes. Even if it’s too late to recoup losses, details may help others from becoming a victim.