Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. Unfortunately, instead of finding romance, many find a scammer who tricks them into sending money. Federal Trade Commission data from the agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network shows that consumers reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019 – up nearly 40% since 2018.
Romance scammers prey on consumers who are looking for love. What feels like a blossoming relationship is quickly converted into an ask for money to help the scammer out of a manufactured crisis. The stories and feelings are often compelling, but the losses can be huge.
To protect you and your loved ones from falling victim to romance scams learn the warning signs and the #1 tip for avoiding romance scams.
Lies Romance Scammers Tell
Often romance scammers say they are living or traveling outside of the United States. Scammers will say they are:
- In the military
- A doctor with an international organization
- Working on an oil rig
Romance scammers often manufacture a crisis for why they need the funds. When asking their targets for money they say they need it for:
- Surgery or other medical expenses
- Paying off debt
- Travel expenses like a plane ticket to visit them
- A visa or other official travel documents
When asking their target to pay them, romance scammers will request the funds be sent through specific transactions. Transactions they know are almost impossible to reverse where they can get the cash quickly while staying anonymous:
- Wiring money
- Reloadable cards or gift cards from companies like Amazon, Google Play and iTunes
How to Avoid Losing Money to a Romance Scammer
***Never send money or gifts to a love interest you have not met in person***
If you suspect you may be involved in a romance scam:
- Stop all communication with that person IMMEDIATELY
- Talk with someone you trust. Pay attention if your friends and family say they’re concerned about your new love interest
- Do a reverse image search of the persons profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up
- Search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories
If you do an image search and the persons photo appears several times under different names you’re most likely dealing with a scammer. If the persons profile disappears a few days after they meet you, that is another warning sign.
It’s important to lead with you head and not your heart. Just like real romances, it may take some time for the scammer to gain your trust. They may lavish you with attention, lure you off the dating site and then ask for money. Make sure you are asking questions and looking for inconsistent answers. Unfortunately, an online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.
What to do if You Find Yourself Involved in a Romance Scam
- Slow down – Talk to someone you trust. Don’t let the scammer rush you.
- Never wire money, put money on a gift card, cash reload card or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.
- Contact your financial institution right away if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
- Report your experience to
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