Love is in the air and so is romance fraud. As we approach Valentine’s Day, beware of romance scams! It’s one thing to experience heartbreak this season, but even worse to experience a scammer breaking into your bank account. Here’s what to stay on the lookout for — and how to prevent becoming a victim.
Let’s Go Catfishing
Key to the scammer’s success is what’s known as “catfishing,” where they pose as a completely made-up person. Using a fake identity, they prowl social media platforms, dating sites, and dating apps to target and lure people into online relationships. Once they’ve built up enough trust with their victim, they then fleece them for financial gain.
It cannot be overstated that catfishing is essential for a scammer to pull off their scheme. Building an identity, creating a fake story and background, putting it up on forums, apps, and sites, and sticking to their script is core to the scam. The more appealing the persona, the more chance of success the scammer has. But there are a few simple ways to see cracks in their plan.
1. They Avoid Phone Calls and Video Calls
This is the biggie. In order to complete their scam, a romance scammer must maintain their fraudulent identity. Everything from their images to their story must add up for them to pull it off — anything that could cast doubt on their scam is a risk to be avoided.
For this reason, scammers will do their best to avoid contact that goes further than direct messages, whether they’re on an app or on social media. Typically, catfishes will go out of their way to avoid communication that reveals their voice or appearance as this could create doubts that their story isn’t real.
2. They Avoid Meeting in Person
To take it a step further, catfishes will go to even greater lengths to avoid meeting in real life. While phone or video calls may be spoofed or avoided with convenient excuses like faulty tech and lag, nothing can replace 1:1 contact offline. Scammers will simply never meet you in-person. Doing so will cause their entirely fake persona to completely unravel — so it’s a risk they’ll avoid at all costs.
3. They Ask for Money or Personal Information
Ultimately, a romance scammer’s goal is to develop a personal relationship with you using their fake identity and leveraging it to get what they want — which is often your hard-earned money. As a rule of thumb, you should never provide someone with money or gifts unless you’ve confirmed their identity. Don’t blindly make a wire transfer or purchase gift cards, two common requests. Even if you’ve built a connection with them, don’t do it unless you can truly verify who they are.
It also isn’t just money that a fraudster might be after. Collecting sensitive personal information like your name, phone number, physical address, driver’s license, or even a Social Security Number is just as valuable for many of them. Your personal info can be used to steal your identity (which can then be used to steal your money), so be sure to think twice before providing it.
For more insights on protecting your personal information, take a look at this blog post .
What to Do if You’re a Victim
If you believe you’ve been a victim of a romance scam, the first thing you should do is block the scammer and stop all contact with them. Then let us know immediately — we’ll do our best to protect your accounts and personal information from further impact.
There are also a few places you may want to report your experience to:
- The platform you used — Whether you met the scammer on an app or a site, be sure to let the platform know. They can flag and remove the fraudulent profile so others don’t fall victim to it.
- The Federal Trade Commission — www.ftc.gov/complaint
- The Federal Bureau of Investigation — www.ic3.gov