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Romance Red Flags

Unveiling the Secrets of Online Dating Fraud

Fraudsters are turning to the world of social media and online dating apps to establish close online relationships and build trust with unsuspecting users. These scams typically start with a fraudster who creates a fake profile on a dating app or social media platform. Too often, these situations end the same way; typically involving 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. This is caused by romance scammers upping their game and enhancing their master of disguise. They create profiles with attractive content, studying personal information and common interests, and provide minimal details about themselves.

If you're exploring online dating, keep an eye out for these common warning signs:

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 get you to become vulnerable and share personal details about yourself. 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?”

Typically, following one of these narratives, the romance scammer will express profound affection, claiming you're "the one," and promising to do anything for you. Don't be deceived; their ultimate goal is often just to take money from you.

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

This tactic is becoming more prominent 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 will create excuses to avoid meeting face-to-face.

If you’re romantically involved with someone that claims to care about you, but refuses to make plans to meet you, this is already a red flag that you should be questioning. They may say that they’re traveling or living outside the country or active in the military. Some scammers go as far as making up lies to get out of video-chatting by saying their camera is broken or their wi-fi is down. These are important signs to be aware of. Even if an online love interest makes plans to visit you, be prepared for a romance scammer to make a last-minute cancellation. Make sure that you are paying close attention to the efforts of the person you’re talking to.

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

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 on romance scamming. While online dating can be an exciting way to find love, it also increases the chance of falling victim to online romance scams. Keep an eye out for all warning signs and be cautious when communicating with potential matches.

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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