The recent “The Tinder Swindler” Netflix documentary has opened the gates to many of a huge problem (Romance Scams) which has been haunting single people on the internet for over a decade
But social networking sites and online dating apps have increased the possibilities for this to happen now to millions of people. If that’s you, one of many using these platforms for romantic purposes, then it’s likely that you could find a scammer trying to trick you for money.
You wouldn’t be alone in this. In fact, according to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans reported record high losses of $547 million to romance scams in 2021 alone.
That’s almost an 80% increase in comparison to 2020 and over six times compared to losses reported in 2017. We’re talking about a total of $1.3 billion lost over the past five years.
So, how does this even happen? How can you spot romance scammers?
How Do Romance Scams Work?
As you can imagine, this type of “confidence” fraud can lead not only to devastating emotional scars, but also significant financial losses.
Romance scammers use fake identities online with factions that make them attractive candidates for potential victims that use social media platforms and dating sites.
The criminals target vulnerable people (often adults over 50 who have lost a romantic partner) with money (willing to give part of it in exchange for love).
They basically create an illusory romantic relationship to manipulate victims into sending money straight or their financial information.
Some people have asked: Will a Romance Scammer meet you in person?
In most cases, they (a Romance Scammer) won’t. Instead, will avoid all possible real-life interactions that could him or her in problems.
Now, what are common types of Romance Scams?
The FTC confirms these are the most common personalities, arguments, and money transfer methods scammers use in such cases:
|Working on an oil rig||Travel expenses (plane ticket)||Wiring Money|
|In the military||Medical expenses (surgery)||Reload cards / Gift Cards|
|doctor in international org.||customs fees||Cryptocurrency|
A recent trend to take into account is romance scammers using cryptocurrency to cash in.
With this one, they offer the victim a time-sensitive, lucrative business opportunity once they have gained the victim’s trust. Yes, you guessed right: it’s a “crypto investment.” The problem with this is that funds sent to the fraudster’s wallet will never be invested nor less, returned.
Surprisingly enough, the FTC has said that median losses for cryptocurrency scams like this one are around $10,000.
If you are still a bit confused about the concept of Romance Scams, then don’t worry.
Down below is an explanatory video by Christine Beining, FBI agent of the Houston Division.
If you got it already, then you can keep reading to find out the best ways to catch a romance scammer.
How to Spot a Romance Scammer
Can you tell a Romance Scammer? You’d be surprised to how many victims thought they could tell before falling into the trap.
The US Justice Department knows this very well, so they’ve enlisted hundreds of large-scale cases of romance scam schemes in their website, to guide yourself out of one if you ever get close.
The FTC has also recently shared tips to spot scammers when looking for love online:
- Do not send cryptocurrency, gift cards, or wiring money to anyone you don’t know personally or that you haven’t met in person.
- Talk to friends or family about a new love interest and watch their response.
- Do a reverse-image search of profile pictures. You can always find the original person who uploaded such a picture or at least tracks of an AI-generated PFP.
But in the hypothetical case that you’ve fallen into a romance scam, here’s what you should do:
The FBI urges you to stop all contact immediately and file a complaint to the IC3 at www.ic3.gov and the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.
In the worst case, you should also reach out to your bank and see if the financial transactions made can be stopped or reversed.