Romance scams occur when criminal actors deceive victims into believing they are engaging in a trusting relationship. They use that relationship to persuade victims to send money, provide personal and financial information, or purchase items for them. In 2021, the FTC reported that victims lost more than $547 million to romance scams. These schemes affect victims from all demographics.
The FBI offers these warning signs of the actors and their schemes:
- Immediate attempts to communicate by email or messaging services outside of a dating site
- Claims to be from the U.S. but is currently living or traveling abroad
- Claims that being introduced was “destiny” or “fate”
- Reports a sudden personal crisis and pressures you to provide financial help
- Disappears suddenly from a site, but reappears under a different name
- Asks for money, goods, or other types of financial assistance without having met in person
The best defense against romance scams is education and awareness. Below are some tips to help avoid becoming a victim:
- Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
If you believe you are a victim of a romance scam, the FBI recommends reporting the activity to the IC3 at https://www.ic3.gov. You should also contact your financial institution if you discover fraudulent or suspicious transactions. Finally, you should report the activity to the website or application where the contact first began.