Have you fallen into a dating scam? Maybe you’re concerned that one of your friends or family members are being taken advantage of in their new relationship, or perhaps you’re diving into the pool of online dating and want tips on how to avoid dating scams in the future.
Whatever the reason, here is some helpful information about what romance scams are, how to avoid them, and what steps to take if you think you’ve fallen victim to one.
What Is a Romance Scam?
A romance scam is when a person engages in a romantic relationship online and willingly sends their loved one money through gift cards, wire transfers, cash payments, and so forth. Once the receiver has gotten the money, they vanish without a trace.
While it may sound easy to avoid these scams, more and more people fall into their trap.
In 2020 alone, the total amount of reported losses from romance scams reached a record of $304 million, which is up by 50% from 2019. Romance scams were also the second most reported crime to the FBI in 2019.
How to Tell If You’re Being Scammed
Asking for money is the most significant sign that you’re in a scam, as securing your funds is the scammer’s primary goal. Scammers are very manipulative and often wield your feelings for them against you. Often, they’ll ask for money to pay for a phone card or cellphone so that they can keep talking to you. Other times they’ll say they need money for a family emergency or health problem.
There are additional signs besides money that can indicate you’re in a romance scam. Here are some other warning signs:
- Their plans to see you always fall through. Their flights get canceled or a last-minute emergency always seems to come up.
- They won’t Facetime with you or send you any recent photos of them.
- They live abroad or very far away from you (sometimes they say they’re in the military, studying abroad, and so on).
- Their profile seems too good to be true.
- The relationship is moving way too fast.
- They ask for money with specific payment methods.
How to Avoid Romance Scams
When starting a new relationship, it’s easy to get swept away by your emotions. That’s why scammers have success with romance scams: you’re more susceptible when you’re falling in love since powerful emotions can create blind spots in your judgment.
It’s important to share details of your new relationship with your friends and family. Because they’re so far removed from the situation, they’ll be better able to tell if something seems off. Take their advice seriously and be honest with them if there are details that make you question your new relationship.
A great tool to use a reverse image search on their profile pictures. Many times, scammers use fake (and more attractive) photos on their Facebook pages to lure potential victims. By doing a reverse image search, you’ll be able to tell if these images are associated with any other names or accounts.
Lastly, the best way to avoid scams is to listen to your intuition. If you think something’s off or there are too many details that don’t make sense—trust your gut.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
Some people feel embarrassed when they realize they’ve been scammed and try to keep it to themselves. However, there’s no reason to feel embarrassed; these are professional scammers who do this for a living.
Once you think you’ve been scammed, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to alert them. You should also contact the website where you met the scammer to make them aware of the fraudulent account.
Can I Get My Money Back?
The key to getting your money back is to act fast and intercept the money before the receiver has gotten it. Once they have the money, it’s nearly impossible to get it back, especially since the chances that you know this person’s true identity is very low.
Contacting your bank is your best bet on getting your money back. Tell your bank or credit card that you paid a scammer to see if the transaction can be reversed. If you paid by gift card, you can also call the company to see if you can reverse the transaction.
If you paid cash, you can contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and ask them to intercept the package.
Romance and Facebook scams are emerging as one of the top scamming crimes in the country. While it may be embarrassing to talk about, if you believe you are a victim, you’re not alone ,and there are steps you can take to get your money back.
As always, be careful when giving away personal information and money, especially when you haven’t met someone in person.