When looking for love, we hope someone will sweep us off of our feet; not knock us to the ground and steal our money. Unfortunately, in the world of online dating, the quest for love can be costly for seekers and profitable for scammers, who netted nearly $2 billion in 2016 and target a new victim every 48 seconds.
Here is more information about what the romance scam is, what to know, and what to do if you think you’ve been targeted.
What it is:
Typically working from boiler rooms in Africa or Russia, these fraudsters create elaborate fake profiles on dating and social media sites to lure several people simultaneously. They often pose as wealthy businessman, lonely models, and deployed military or salt-of-the-earth volunteers spreading goodwill overseas.
What to know:
- Check photos – Many scammers use stolen photos or stock images in their profiles. Do an image search or compare photos on tineye.com and images.google.com or check sites like romancescams.org and romancescamsnow.com.
- Maintain an air of mystery – Don’t reveal your last name, address, workplace, or other personal information until you have met them in person. Be wary of any suitors who ask for this information early on.
- Location – When you do connect by phone, turn off your GPS and location settings so people can’t find out where you’re located.
- Watch that language – Be wary of bad grammar, misspellings, and vague or generic compliments.
- Too much; too soon – Watch for suitors that are quick to push you off websites and into communicating by personal e-mail or instant messaging. Also watch for those who profess love and devotion in the blink of an eye.
- Stand up to getting stood up – It’s common for romantic rogues to make and cancel face-to-face meetings. Life happens sometimes but repeat offenders are a red flag.
- Dating bank – You went online to find romance, not a financial burden. Watch out for requests to send money for ANY reason – requests of this kind are another red flag.
What to do if you’re contacted or victimized:
Report, report, report! Notify your dating or social media platform of any fraudulent profiles. Follow up by filing complaints with:
- Your local police department.
- The Federal Trade Commission at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
- The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.
- The Washington State Office of the Attorney General at atg.wa.gov/file-complaint.
- Scam reporting sites like like romancescams.org and romancescamsnow.com.
Consumers who think that they are being targeted by a scammer can also call the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Call Center based in Seattle at 1-800-646-2283 to speak with a trained counselor.
To learn more about scams to look out for, visit www.aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.