Romance Scams: Everything You Need to Know in 2021

According to the Federal Trade Commission, over the last year, users lost more than $3 million due to romance scams. 

Prevent yourself from becoming a statistic.

After exploring our guide, you’ll know what a romance scam is, how to identify a scammer, and precautionary steps to avoid falling for their tricks.

If you have already fallen victim to one of these scams, we’ll teach you what to do to mitigate your losses.

How Does a Romance Scam Work?

Imagine this scenario.

You’re on a website—social media or dating—and you meet a fascinating person. One day, you wake up to a plea for help from your new love interest.

They need Bitcoin to pay for their broken leg.

After you give them the money for their operation, they vanish. That’s how a romance scam (dating scam) works.

Dating scams can spawn from any corner of the internet where you can meet a stranger. They’ll often seduce you into a relationship that eventually leads to them having some form of blackmail over you. Or, they can flat out ask for money.

3 Warning Signs of a Dating Scammer

To prevent yourself from falling for a romance scam, you’ll need to keep your eyes out for these red flags.

The Relationship Moves Too Fast

The longer you’re in a relationship with a dating scammer, the likelier you are to catch onto their plot. Because of this factor, your new anonymous friend will do and say anything necessary to pull you into a relationship.

Some methods that they’ll use to expedite your relationship are:

  • Propose even though you just met them
  • Say they love you when they don’t know much about you
  • Make outlandish promises right off the bat

Mention Anything about Money

If your new love interest mentions anything about money—receiving or giving—that’s a red flag.

If they send you money and ask you to transfer it elsewhere, that could be a sign of money laundering.

Often, they’ll ask for money to pay off emergency expenses like medical debt or rent in an attempt to gain sympathy.

They Make up Excuses Not to Visit You

A scammer will never want to reveal their identity, so they’ll do anything to hide it. Moreover, their goal is to keep you on a leash as long as possible. That means they might buy a plane ticket, then at the last second cancel for an unknown reason.

Here’s What to Do If You Fell for a Romance Scam

Stop all contact with the scammer.

Send in a complaint to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Afterward, contact the website where you met your scammer and discuss your concerns with their customer service.

5 Practical Tips to Avoid Dating Scams

You should understand how to prevent romance scams from happening to you or your loved ones. Whether you fell prey to one of these schemes, or if it’s your first time hearing about them.

Keep these four simple strategies in mind to avoid dating scams.

  1. Set Up a Video Call Early on

The easiest way to identify a dating scammer early on is to invite them to a video call. That way, you can see them face-to-face.

If they can’t attend for some reason, ask them a day or two later. However, if they continually make up excuses, that means they’re a romance scammer.

  1. Investigate

At least 16% of all Facebook profiles are fake. This statistic suggests your new internet crush might not be who you think. If you can get a hold of their email, type it into Google and see what you find. Do they have a social media presence elsewhere?

Take your investigation a step further. Either use Google Lens or save their image and enter it into Google Images to perform a reverse image search.

Sometimes scammers can use AI apps to generate fake social media profile pictures for themselves. Conversely, these are often easy to identify because they can only create an image of one person at a time.

  1. Never Give a Stranger Money

Never send strangers nor hand out your payment information to an online stranger whom you’ve never met.

  1. If They Ask for Help, Direct Them on the Right Path

If you’re in a long-distance relationship with someone outside the U.S. and they ask for help, guide them toward the right resources.

For example, if they have someone after them and claim they have to pay the attacker off, direct your love interest toward their local authorities or embassy.

  1. Don’t Send Them Crude Photos 

Never send anyone any photos or videos that you’d want the world to see. If a person you happen to send photos to is a romance scammer, they can use it as blackmail later to steal your money or information.

Keep Your Wits about You

If you’ve already fallen victim to romance scams, report your situation. Otherwise, remember our warnings on how to avoid romance scams in addition to our practical tips to avoid them.

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