How to spot and prevent Romance Scams

Scammers are everywhere, and the scams they’re perpetrating are becoming more insidious and deceptive every. They penetrate nearly every aspect of our daily lives through social media and the smart phone. Regardless of how it happens, though, being swindled by a scammer is an awful experience. A romance scam often cuts to the heart of who we are.

There’s something terrible about falling in love and being victimized by a scammer who is an expert emotional manipulator.

So let’s take a more detailed look at how they work. Most of the formulas are fairly basic. In this article here we present the signs that will help you identfy a romance scammer.

Knowing these signs and tips can help you avoid the pain, humiliation and financial loss that comes with many scams.

How Romance Scams Work

The anatomy of a romance scam is actually fairly easy to understand. The most common vehicle are dating sites once a connection is established.

First contacts

Initially, the romantic interactions are fairly innocuous. The goal of the romance scammer is to increase the intensity of the connection as quickly as possible. By using constant texts and messages the scammer will ask questions and make requests. The questions may involve help paying bills, a financial bailout due to dire financial straits.

Another possibility is a request for funds to buy a plane ticket to meet and confirm the budding romantic connection. Often scammers will pretend to do things reluctantly, dodge questions about meetings and how the romance will unfold and progress.

Investment advice is one of the new elements that’s being introduced to many romance scams is investment advice. Some scammers pretend to be financial experts, and engage conversations in order to display their expertise in this area. It’s all about gaining the trust of their subjects. The conversations about finance increase the level of trust in order to remove doubt from their victims?

A Popular Scam

On a different level, romance scams have been popularized in various media formats and reality shows. “Catfish” the MTV hit, helped many understand how romance scams work. Netflix series “The Tinder Swindler” offered an updated version of romance scams. It highlighted the freewheeling qualities in relation to popular dating site.

Another new element that’s playing into some romance scams is cryptocurrency. The advantage of cryptocurrency for scammers is clear— untraceablility, ease of transfers and the proliferation of various Bitcoin-related vehicles. For victims, sending cryptocurrency has become an expensive proposition. Last year, victims lost almost $140 million, with an astounding average loss of almost $10K per victim.

Given all new elements that have become part of romance scams let us take a closer look at the numbers. They really are surprising, and they give an idea of how pervasive the problem has become.

Romance Scams by the Numbers

According to Fraud.org, a consumer watchdog organization, complaints about romance scams increased by approximately 30 percent in 2020, making them the fifth most popular scam. They also carry a median loss of just over $1600, so the wallet pain is serious as well.

In 2021, those numbers increased even more. According to the Federal Trade Commission, victims lost a record $547 million dollars to various romance scams. This is an increase of 80 percent over the previous year. Personal losses went up to $2400 per person. It is unknown how many families and children became victims in the process.

Covid-19 explains the romance scam increase

So why did these numbers rise so quickly and dramatically? The isolation and desperation for human contact during the pandemic helped scammers to line their pockets pandemic is one obvious reason.Moreover, many victims don’t report the losses after they’ve been done in by a romance scam. Shame, is due in part of why the FTC sites the gargantuan number of $1.3 billion in losses since 2017.

The target groups are changing, too. The most common target group is seniors over 60 and the younger set under 25. Surprisingly, it’s the under-25 set that’s being increasingly victimized, with a 30 percent increase, while the increase for seniors over 65 was approximately 16 percent.

The increase in younger victims probably has something to do with Covid and enforced isolation, not to mention the fact that romantic inclinations are probably strongest in that particular group.

How to Spot a Romance Scam

There are many ways to spot a romance scam, especially if it’s happening via a dating site.

To start, step back and consider the profiles you’re perusing. There’s nothing wrong with shooting high when it comes to your romantic expectations, but there’s an old adage that applies here—if something or someone looks too good to be true, they probably are. The possibility of talking to and landing an attractive and exciting new partner may be enticing, but you should also take a deeper dive beyond the photos and the surface information as you get to know this person.

Many scammers who frequent dating sites have fake photos, fake profiles and multiple bogus identities. One way to spot this is to look for vague descriptions about a life that seems far too mysterious to be real—i.e., if they travel all the time, or if they’re always too busy to meet, talk on the phone or do a video chat.

Experts point out that many romance scams take place with no personal interaction at all. These are characterized by the illusion of constant availability, but any effort to make something real happen will quickly be met with a dodge that sounds plausible on the surface.

What to Do If You Think You’re Being Scammed

It’s important to use a combination of intuition and common sense if you think you’re being scammed, and there’s also a savvy way to go about it.

Simply put, ask direct questions as you get to know this person. Very few people will be foolish enough to reveal everything about their personal or professional lives in an online dating site, but you should develop your own personal timeline for when you want certain things to be disclosed.

For example, you should be able to put together your own in-depth profile for your potential significant other if there’s a chance you’re going to meet. That includes a professional life that can be verified, along with a verifiable education background as well.

Location and genuine photos should be part of the package as well. If your significant other tells you that they live in a specific city or area, they should be able to provide details without giving away their exact address.

Similarly, ask for more casual photos that back up the glamour shots as well. Many scammers use attractive stock photos to bait the romantic trap, and getting extra shots that show them in different casual settings can help verify that the person you’re talking to is real.

Google is your friend

You can also use reverse imaging to do this kind of verification. If you pop a photo into a search engine like Google, there are simple procedures that will allow you to call up related photos.

Above all, don’t send money until you’re absolutely sure the person you’re talking to is real. Expect a would-be scammer to question your intentions when you ask specific questions—“that’s not very romantic” will be a popular response.

Also, if you have the resources and you’re genuinely serious about meeting someone, it’s not a bad idea to use various professional lookup informational services to make sure you’re dealing with someone real. Some people even go so far as to hire a detective to do this, which might seem excessive, but there’s no substitute for certainty when you’re dealing with a possible romantic scam.

If you have sent money or you suspect identity theft as part of the romantic scam, there are things you can do, but your options become more limited. You freeze a checking account if you did the transfer that way, or you can try to recoup charges on a credit card. Other options include the Identity Theft Resource Center if that possibility surfaces, and you can also report what’s happened to law enforcement.

Do your homework! Once you’ve been scammed the chances of recovering your money go down greatly.

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