When you hear “romance scam” you may think of a little old lady falling for the classic “Nigerian Prince” scam. But romance scams have become far more complex and difficult to recognize, adapting to today’s online dating landscape.
With the popularity of platforms like Match.com, Tinder, and Bumble, scammers have set their sights on these popular apps and even social media. In fact, consumers have lost $770 million to fraud scams started on social media in 2021, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In the first half of 2021, the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) received over 1,800 complaints related to online romance scams, resulting in losses of approximately $133.4 million.
Romance scams can be part of a much larger cybercriminal ecosystem. International cyber gangs will even use dating sites to recruit victims as “money mules” and use them to unknowingly launder funds, according to AARP.
If you have started a new online relationship, or if you’ve even been in one for several months, it’s important to look for any red flags.
Some red flags may include:
- A request for money. A request for money is a major red flag of a scam. Scammers may pressure you into sending money for “urgent” matters, such as medical expenses. They may also say it’s for a plane ticket to visit you. Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person. Scammers may also ask for payment in the form of pre-loaded gift cards or wire transfers.
- Scammers may often make and break promises to come see you in person. They claim to live far away or overseas, or be in the military.
- The relationship is moving fast and the person professes love quickly.
- There’s pressure to move the conversation off the platform to a different site or want to continue the conversation through text. Dating platforms search for scammers on their sites. Scammers will want to move their victim off-platform to avoid any detection.
If you believe you’re the victim of a romance scam, it is important to take the following steps:
- Cease communications with the scammer immediately, and take note of any identifiable information you may have on the person, including email address.
- Contact your bank or credit card company if you’ve given a scammer money.
- File a police report with your local precinct.
- Report the scammer to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and the FBI at ic3.gov.
- Notify the website or app where you met the scammer.
Remember that romance scams can happen to anyone at any age, and falling for a scam is nothing to be ashamed of. By speaking out, reporting scams, and encouraging others to do the same, you can help protect yourself and others from becoming victims. For more information from the National Cybersecurity Alliance, visit staysafeonline.org/romance-scams.