It’s well known that people online aren’t always as they appear. However, tens of thousands of internet users fall victim to online romance scams each year, and it can happen to anyone. These scams can be incredibly convincing and are increasingly found across dating sites and social media platforms. Bad actors are very good at appealing to victims’ emotions and feigning personal connections, with the intention of stealing large sums of money and personal information.
Luckily, there are ways to identify a scam and protect yourself and family online.
Look for the red flags
Scammers can be very convincing, however there are ways to identify a scammer, including, but not limited to, the following red flags:
- There’s a request for money for urgent matters, such as medical expenses or a plane ticket. Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
- Common forms of money requested by scammers are wire transfers or pre-loaded gift cards.
- The person claims to live far away, overseas or be in the military.
- The relationship is moving very fast.
- They break promises to see you in person.
- There’s pressure to move the conversation off the platform to a different site or text app.
Know what action to take
If you believe you or a loved one are the victim of a scam, it is important to take the following steps:
- Cease communications with the scammer immediately.
- Take note of any identifiable information you may have on them, such as their email address.
- Contact your bank or credit card company if you think you’ve given money to a scammer.
- File a police report.
- Report the scammer to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and the FBI at ic3.gov.
- Notify the website or app where you met the scammer.
Basic safety tips
- Share with care: Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it might affect you or others. Consider creating an alternate persona that you use for online profiles to limit how much of your own personal information you share.
- Check your settings: Consider setting your social media profiles to “private”. This will make it harder for scammers to target and communicate with you. A public profile will make it easy for scammers to find your profile and learn about you through old posts and photos.
- Think before you click: Be wary of communications that push you for immediate action or ask for personal information. Never share personal information through email, especially if you do not know the sender.
- Use reverse image search: If you are unsure if you are being scammed, do a reverse image search of the potential scammer’s profile picture. You may see that image belongs to a completely different person, or has been affiliated with different online identities.
- FBI: Romance Scams
- FTC: What You Need to Know About Romance Scams
- NortonLifeLock: Romance Scams Guide
- Match.com: Dating Safety Tips
Talk to your friends, family, and coworkers.
The National Cybersecurity Alliance created a Romance Scam Kit to raise awareness and spread the word about these types of scams.