In today’s dating scene, it’s not unusual to meet a new love interest online. But be wary – sometimes you need to step back, ignore the pangs of love, and think clearly about who you’re communicating with. Romance and dating scams have been around forever, but with the help of the Internet, scammers are able to victimize people nationwide.
In pre-digital times, scammers found prey in the personal ads of magazines. Today, technology has streamlined communication and given scammers new tools. While many people create successful relationships via dating sites, chat rooms and social networking, scammers also use these avenues to meet potential victims. They build online relationships through fake profiles, eventually convincing their targets to send them money. In 2015, the FBI received 12,509 complaints related to online-dating fraud, with losses of $203.3 million. And victims are men and women of all ages and professions. The promise of love is powerful.
Unfortunately, if your online love interest asks you to send him/her money, chances are they’re a scam artist.
Here are some tips to identify an online dating scammer:
- They profess their love quickly, and claim to be a U.S. citizen overseas for business or military service.
- They ask for money and try to get you off of the dating site to another platform.
- They pull at your heartstrings claiming they need money for an emergency, medical bills or travel expenses.
- They say they plan to visit, but are unable to due to an emergency.
As if all that isn’t bad enough, romance scammers are now also involving their victims in online bank fraud. Here’s how it works:
- They come up with reasons to ask you to set up a new bank account.
- They transfer stolen money into the new account, and then tell their victims to wire the money out of the country.
- Victims think they’re just helping out their soulmate, never realizing they’re aiding and abetting a crime.
If you find yourself the target of an online dating scam, here’s what you should do:
- Stop and think. Don’t let the scammer pressure you. Talk to someone you trust.
- Do not wire money, put money on a gift card or cash reload card, or send cash.
- If you have already sent money, contact your bank immediately.
- Report your experience to the online dating site, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
And just remember, if you become the target of an online dating scam, while it can be heartbreaking, it’s not your fault. Just be smart, keep at it, and you’ll find Mr. or Ms. Right some day!
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