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Caught in a Bad Romance?

Expert Tips to Avoid Romance Fraud

Are you looking for romance online? In today’s world, it’s important to be aware of romance scams. These scams typically start with a fraudster who creates a fake profile on a dating app or social media platform. Then, they all-too-often end up the same way…with a made-up story of why your online dating crush needs money. While this type of fraud may not have impacted you personally, it could be happening to someone you know.

According to the FTC, Americans have lost $1.3 billion to romance scams in the past five years. So, how does this happen? Well, it's because romance scammers upped their game and enhanced their master of disguise. They do this by creating profiles with attractive content, studying personal information and common interests, and provide minimal details about themselves.

Here are some common signs that you or someone you might know have encountered from a romance scammer in the past, or warning signs to look for in the future:

Romance scammers will confess their love quickly online.

Typically, the first sign of a romance scammer is when they express strong emotions for you in a short period of time. In some cases, they might tell you they love you without ever seeing their face on the phone or in person. This is a tactic they often use to have you open up about your personal details. If you experience a love interest online who confesses their love quickly and asks for personal details, then you might be experiencing fraud. Protect your personal information carefully and be weary of your online love interest.

Romance scammers tend to need money for emergencies, bills, and travel expenses.

Be skeptical of a love interest you meet online who asks for financial assistance. Here are some common scenarios that these fraudsters use:

  • “I need money to pay for a sick relative.”
  • “I need money so I can fly out and visit you.”
  • “I am a US service member overseas and need some money.”
  • “Can I borrow some money? I will pay you back, I promise.”
  • “My card isn’t working right now can you wire me some money?”

Generally, after one of these storylines the romance scammer will include in the message how much they love you, how you’re the one, and that they would do this for you. Don’t let them fool you and disguise the fact that all they want is your money.

Romance scammers will try to lure you off the dating app or site.

This tactic is happening more and more often in romance fraud. The scammer lures you off the dating site and tries to connect with you personally by email, texting, or instant messaging. This might not be taken as a red flag in the moment, as you may believe it’s a next step in your relationship. Everyone wants to find love on these dating apps and move forward, but this is a way for the scammer to get closer to your personal information. Instead, set up an alternate email or utilize a different instant message app that isn't linked to your personal information if you choose to continue a conversation off the app.

Romance scammers plan to visit, but always cancel.

Most romance scammers tend to want to visit you, but somehow always fail to go through with it. They often claim to have their travel plans canceled because of a traumatic event, family drama, or business issues. Be very cautious and suspicious. Following the cancellation, the romance scammers tend to ask for money as a short-term loan. Their excuse typically sounds like, “I’m sorry I can’t visit right now because I don’t have money. But you can buy me a ticket, and I will pay you back! I just want to be with you. I love you.” This is a red flag and it’s important to remember to never send money to someone you don’t know. 

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and it probably is a scam!

- Prajakta Paradkar | Fraud Manager

Expert Tips on Avoiding Romance Fraud

  1. Talk to someone you trust about your current situation. A romance scammer might try to isolate you from your friends and family.
  2. Never send money to people that you don’t know. If you have already sent money, report it immediately to the FTC.
  3. Contact your financial institution right away if you think you have sent money to a romance scammer.
  4. If you fall for a scam, report your experience to:
  • The online dating app
  • Federal Trade Commission
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation

Don’t let yourself be on the next “Tinder Swindler,” take the precautionary steps needed when going into an online dating app or site. If you notice any red flags, focus on these tips for handling situations of romance scamming.

Have questions or need trusted advice? Our credit union experts are always here for you. Contact Elements Financial for support in all aspects of your financial life.

This information is provided for informational purposes only. It does not constitute legal, tax or financial advice. Consult with your tax, legal or financial adviser before taking any action. Sources: FTC and Morning Brew

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