Over the years, online dating scams have caused heartbreak and bankruptcy to thousands of unsuspecting Americans looking for love. Although dating sites are great tools for finding friendship and love, they also make great tools for fraudsters.
These fraudsters do this by creating fake profiles, establishing relationships, and eventually defrauding their partners of their money.
In this article, we’ll show you online dating scam stats, common dating scam methods, how to know if you’re being scammed, and how to report a scammer.
Online Dating Scam Statistics
- Since 2015, the number of online dating scams has nearly tripled its original estimate. (FTC, February 2020)
- Within the first half of 2020, an estimated amount of $117 million was lost to social media scammers. (FTC, October 2020)
- Almost 20,000 people were victims of romance and confidence scams in 2019. (FBI 2019 Internet Crime Report)
- People within the 55-64 age bracket are more likely to fall victim to online dating scams. (BBB 2019 Scam Tracker Risk Report)
- In 2019, older adults lost an estimated amount of $84 million to online dating scams, $61 million to government impersonation scams, and $51 million to lottery and sweepstakes scams. (FTC, 2019 – 2020 Protecting Older Consumers Report)
- In 2018, Californians lost $450 million to online dating scams, putting them in the first place, followed by New Yorkers, Floridians, Texans, and North Carolinians. (NPR)
Some Signs That You Might Be Experiencing a Scam
It’s easier to decipher intention in person than it is to do so online. This is because when reading texts, we tend to project our mood and feelings onto these texts. Because of this, you can’t be entirely sure if you’re speaking to a scammer or an actual person.
We have compiled some red flags to look out for while dating online. More often than not, these signs usually expose the scammer before you lose your money and other valuables.
They Are Far Away From You
One of the first signs that you’re texting a romance scammer is their backstory. Most times, these Nigerian scammers pretend that they’re US citizens who are out of the country for various reasons. Some common background stories are:
- They’re overseas or in the military
- They’re a medical practitioner working abroad
- They’re supervising a construction project outside the US
Their stories are usually quite interesting and elaborate, so make sure to watch out for inconsistencies in case things they say don’t add up.
The Relationship Moves Quickly
Online dating scammers want to make their money before their targets figure out they’re fraudsters. Because of this, they’ll do their best to make you trust them by being extremely sweet and romantic. Some moves they may make include:
- They ask you to get married to them
- They tell you they love you almost immediately
- They promise over and over that you’ll meet up with each other
- They ask to communicate on apps besides the dating site. Doing this exposes their target, as the scammer can get their phone number and lose safety protocols put in place by the dating site.
They Ask You for Money
If the person you’re talking to online asks you for money when you haven’t even met, be careful because it could be a scammer. Romance scammers tend to use some expense they can’t afford as a reason to take your money. Some of these excuses are:
- Medical bills
- Travel expenses–a visa or plane ticket.
They Ask for Certain Payment Channels
Some payment methods are fast and boast of easy ways to get money transferred to you while being anonymous. If your online suitor asks for payment through any of these methods, beware. They might be Nigerian romance scammers. Some of the commonly used payment channels are:
- Pre-loaded gift cards
- Wire transfers
- A new bank account in your name.
How to Avoid Online Dating Scammers
Now that you’ve learned some signs to look out for, here are some tips on how to avoid a romance scam. These tips are recommended by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC):
- Research and verify: An online search to verify the person’s name, picture, location, and email will go a long way.
- Talk to someone you trust about it: Don’t rush into anything; sit down and discuss it with someone close to you.
- Never send money to anybody; it won’t be returned.
How to Report a Romance Scammer
If you feel that you’re being scammed, report your experience to the dating site or social media platform it happened on. Make sure to report it to the FTC as well. You can also report the incident to the FBI.
At the end of the day, all that matters is you’re doing your duty by reporting suspected fraud because it can help apprehend the person and stop others from falling victim.