From videocassette dating services from several decades ago to the 1700s personal ads that appeared in publications, dating platforms where individuals looked for romantic lovers have evolved throughout history.
Now, we see the rise of online dating sites and apps as the next step of this evolution process. This evolution also birthed the African dating scams and romance scams that are now widespread.
In a Pew Research Center study, 3 out of 10 US adults use a dating website or app, with victims of online romance scams losing more than $200 million in 2019. By 2020, the losses have hit a record of $304 million, more than 50 percent of the previous year.
What is a Romance Scam?
As an online dating scam, a romance scam happens when someone tricks another person into believing that they are in a romantic relationship when they meet online. However, people don’t know that they are taking a cybercriminal as their “other half” who uses a fake identity to gain enough of a victim’s trust.
From there, they can blackmail or ask them for money. Social media has gained a significant increase in the advances of these African dating scams, even though they use dating sites or apps.
How This Scam Works
African dating scams often happen through online dating sites or apps like Match.com. However, these African scammers also use email or social media like Instagram and Facebook to make contact. These scams even happen in more unexpected places. People also know these fraudsters to even call their victims via the phone as an initial introduction.
On other popular apps, these dating scams have originated through communication features, such as Words With Friends. However, these scammers rarely stay for long on these platforms.
They lure their victim from social media sites or dating apps to messaging apps like Google Hangouts or WhatsApp. Scammers typically do this to not lose their account.
These fraudsters always express their desire to find love and build a connection. They even tell their victims that “destiny” brings them together, but that is not true at all.
The scammer likely has contacted many people before, and the victim is not the first person. To find victims who would be willing to believe their story due to their vulnerability, these scammers cast their nets far and wide.
Vulnerable women like widowed, single, older, or middle-aged women are their targets. They then attempt to create a “genuine” connection by preying on their targets’ hope and insecurity.
Common Signs of a Romance Scam
While romance scammers may sound quite convincing, they are also experts in social manipulation. A romance scammer uses insidious and subtle signs to build trust before exploiting their victims.
Watch out for these red flags when getting to know someone online to avoid online dating scams:
Planning to Visit and Cancel Due to “Emergency”
You may need to be suspicious if your online partner plans to visit but changes their plans unexpectedly because of a business loss, family drama, or a traumatic event. These cancellations will have a request for a short-term loan.
Luring You Off the Dating Site
Scammers often convince their victims to use instant messaging or personal email and leave the dating site. An innocent person may not see this as a red flag. These scammers can access your personal information easily when you give them your email address or phone number.
Claiming They Need Money for Travel, Hospital Bills, or Emergencies
When an online partner asks for financial assistance regardless of their circumstances, it may be the time to be suspicious. There is a good chance this person wants to scam you if you encounter one of these situations when engaging with a stranger on the internet.
Professing Love Quickly Without Actually Meeting You
A dating scam’s first sign is when these scammers convey strong emotions in a pretty short period. Their tactics involve telling their victims of their love for them to get access to their personal details. With that, they can access their online accounts.
Precautions and What to Do
You would have better success preventing African dating scams and even maintain better overall online safety when you know about these signs. According to the Federal Trade Commission, ensure you adhere to these precautions when meeting people on social media or dating sites:
- Report any money you sent. If you think you have sent money to a scammer, contact your financial institution right away.
- Do not send money. Never send cash, put money on a cash reload card or gift card, or wire money to an online love interest. You can never get it back.
- Talk to someone you trust and slow down. Discuss your situation with a family member or a friend. Tell them about what you want to do next. It is typical of these African dating scams to isolate you from family and friends, leading to making impulsive decisions alone. Don’t make any decision through a scammer’s pressure.
- Cross-check and verify email address, location, photo, and name.