RALEIGH, NC (February 11, 2022) – Online dating sites are popular as many use technology to find a partner. But behind some dating profiles hide scammers who are ready to trick users into thinking they have found love.
Don’t let your search for love blind you to the realities of romance scams. Online dating and social media make it easy to meet new people and find dates. Unfortunately, it also made it easier for scammers.
Scammers create convincing backstories and full identities to trick victims into falling in love with someone who doesn’t exist. This form of deception is known as “catfishing”. Sometimes a catfisher is a lone person hiding behind a false identity, but often it’s the first step in a phishing scheme to steal personal information or trick victims out of money. In some cases, victims have been tricked into moving illegal money from other scams (“money mule”), potentially a crime.
How the scam works:
Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and texts from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or work abroad to explain why they can’t meet in person. In a short period of time, the scammer builds a fake relationship with the victim, exchanging romantic photos and messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.
Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, the new boyfriend has a health problem or family emergency or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: they need money. But after the victim sends money, there is another request and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether.
Tips to spot this scam:
Too hot to be true. Scammers offer attractive photos and stories of financial success. If someone seems “too perfect”, alarm bells should go off.
In a hurry to leave the site. Catfishers will quickly try to get you to communicate via email, messaging, or phone.
Moving fast. A catfisher will start talking about a future together and say “I love you” quickly. They often say that they have never felt this way before.
Talk about trust. Catfishers will begin to manipulate victims by talking about trust and how important it is. This will often be a first step in asking for money.
I don’t want to meet. Beware of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meetings because they say they are traveling, living abroad, or in the military.
Suspicious language. If the person claims to be local, but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.
Bad luck stories. Before moving on to ask for money, the scammer may hint at financial problems, such as a heat outage, a car theft, a relative’s illness, or may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc).
How to spot and protect yourself from this scam:
• Never send money or personal information that could be used for identity theft to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give someone your credit card information to reserve a ticket to visit. Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for information like credit card, bank, or government identification numbers.
• Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or piecing together a story.
•Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use on their profiles. You can do a reverse image search using a website like tineye.com or images.google.com to see if a profile’s photos were stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what gets added and what doesn’t.
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay