As online dating has started to gain traction as a means of finding your match, so too has the threat of being scammed in romance fraud.
We often hear about these stories where an elderly person was manipulated by a con artist into giving away their life savings, or a predator has been grooming an adolescent to take advantage of them. Many of us millennials and gen z have a false sense of immunity to these scams because we have grown up with the internet and online dating. We might think that we already know all the signs, or that it might be less likely to happen because these dating platforms have established trust in the consumer base.
And yet, romance-based scams account for some of the highest dollar losses per year in the category of mass marketing frauds. It is one of the least reported types of fraud despite its proliferation across the internet, and it can target people of all ages.
Usually these types of situations have a few common themes:
- They ask you early on to move communication off the dating platform. Moving away from the online dating site messaging services means that the interaction can be harder to track. Usually they will ask to communicate by email or text messages instead.
- The relationship moves very fast. If after just a few contacts, they are expressing their profound love or feelings of deep friendship for you, it’s time to be suspicious. This is a tactic to try to manipulate vulnerable people into trusting the con artist, so that they can be more easily scammed.
- Yet they will not meet you in person or talk on the phone/video chat. Even though they could be professing deep feelings for you, they are somehow evasive when it comes to the topic of meeting in person, or they have all these excuses about why they can’t speak on the phone or video chat. This factor alone is huge– when romance is real, you want to be together and you want to see each other. So even if on the off chance that they are not scamming you and don’t want to meet, they still may be hiding a big secret.
- They want you to send them money. This is usually not something that happens immediately. It takes time and grooming for the con artist to build trust with their target. At that point, they may come out with an elaborate story about how they need financial help to get out of a problematic situation. Common stories of this nature include being stuck traveling and needing help with airline tickets, requiring assistance with medical bills, or having a family member in a life or death situation. These stories are engineered to prey upon your need to help those that you care about. If the victim agrees to pay even just once, there will most likely be more requests in the future to cover other fictitious expenses.
You should never agree to send money to someone that you don’t know. Besides the potential of opening up a figurative drain, you could be unknowingly helping the scammer in something shady. Especially if they ask you to move money or goods on their behalf.
If you feel like something about the person’s profile doesn’t quite add up, you can reverse image search the photo by right-clicking it on the website and selecting the ‘Search Google for image’ option. This will show you if the profile picture has been uploaded anywhere else, which could show if it was taken from someone else or a stock photo. This also works on mobile if you access the photo through the Chrome browser app, hold your finger down on the photo until a pop-up menu appears, and then you can select the option to search google as usual.
One more thing to consider is avoiding sending intimate photos of yourself or providing sensitive details about your personal life that could be used against you. Scammers have been known to hold individuals hostage in these relationships by threatening to blackmail them with information they had voluntarily provided.
If, over the course of reading this article, you have found yourself recognizing red flags in a situation you or someone you know are involved in, know that you can reach out to us to help. Visit our website https://www.datecheckonline.com/ for more information on our identity verification investigations and to get in contact with us so that we can help you.
This article was written by Kristina Weber, Content Manager of Centry Global. For more content like this, be sure to subscribe to Centry Blog and follow us on Twitter @CentryGlobal and @DateCheckOnline.