Loneliness combined with a desire for love can sometimes lead to people losing sight of reality and draining their money accounts to aid someone they’ve never seen in person. Unfortunately, dating apps and social networking sites have become hotspots for crooks presenting as Mr. or Mrs. Right, appearing as professionals working in far-flung locations — but they’re really thieves in disguise attempting to steal money from naive victims.
For dishonest, nasty cheats, business is thriving. According to the FBI, which investigates crimes of the heart related to our finances, more than 23,000 victims reported losing more than $605 million to romance scams in 2020. This is up from more than $203 million in losses recorded by 12,500 victims five years ago. Because many people are too humiliated to disclose the crime to the police, the true numbers are likely to be far higher. According to the Better Business Bureau, up to a million people in the United States have been victims of dating scams.
While middle-aged and older adults ages 40-69 are more likely to be duped by romantic scams than younger people, those aged 70 and over reported the largest individual median losses, at $9,475 per fraud, according to Deborah Royster of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
They use Fake Identities
They’re swindlers who steal people’s identities. They steal other people’s photos from the internet and hide behind them. A photo’s reverse-image search might instantly disclose the lie. People will sometimes retouch their images to make them appear overly attractive, or they will photograph themselves on a beach, atop the Eiffel Tower, or in the Tuscan heat. Scammers will sometimes simply use someone else’s photo and profile to build a bogus one. Also, if your new online suitor shares all of your likes and hobbies, right down to your love of Hallmark Christmas movies and new boxes of tagalongs, it’s time to be wary. Those kinds of made-for-TV pairings can only be found in your Hollywood fantasies.
Things Escalate Fast
They go from 0 to 60 in a matter of seconds. After a week of texting, the con artist will declare that he has discovered his “soulmate” and pledge his eternal devotion. Be wary if you meet someone on a dating app or website or on a social networking platform like Facebook or Instagram, and they tell you they’re in love after only a few discussions. Don’t doubt yourself; you’re wonderful. However, if someone uses the “L” word right away, alarm bells should go out. It’s crucial to take things carefully, particularly if you’ve never met the individual in person.
They Are Professional Liars
They’re deceptive liars. They make up excuses for not being able to meet, such as working on an oil rig. Alternatively, they portray themselves as a “great” businessman working in another country. Working on oil rigs, serving in the military in an undisclosed location, physicians working outside the United States, and people in construction jobs that keep them on the road for the majority of the year are among the most common occupations made up by scammers and reported to authorities, according to the FBI. There have also been many tales of a prosperous Turkish businessman in need of gift cards for his son’s birthday due to a cash shortage.
You Have Never Seen Them in Real Life
They always say they’ll come in person, but it never happens. They would rather text than make video calls. This is nearly always a hint that someone doesn’t want you to know who they really are. People believe your eyes are the portals to your soul for a reason. You can’t trust someone who won’t show their face to you. Some clever fraudsters use low-light rooms to video chat with their victims, making it practically impossible to see their faces properly. This is a red flag that they are most likely shady on the inside and out.
In-person visits are usually rescheduled due to unforeseen circumstances, such as hospitalization or airplane delays. Your new flame is desperate to pay you a visit. He even purchased an airline ticket as well as a present. He took some time off work. Then, out of nowhere, his mother is admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, and your initial encounter is rescheduled. Again. Con artists’ stories about not being able to meet in person have become considerably more credible as a result of the pandemic. “We’ve all been confined to our homes and become more secluded,” Royster says, “and this makes certain individuals more vulnerable to scammers.” A new wrinkle is that a fraudster would claim that they can’t meet in person because they have a positive COVID test. After that, they have a 14-day quarantine period to think of another reason to stay away or avoid flying.
They Want to Send You A Large Sum of Money or Ask You for It
They require funding to address a problem. And they’ll want gift cards, prepaid cards, wire transfers, or bitcoin, depending on the victim’s convenience. Some criminals are looking for somebody to help them launder money they have obtained illegally. If a love interest you’ve only known for a short time offers you a large sum of money, refuse it and stop communicating with the person. According to Lisa Schifferle, a policy specialist with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office of Older Americans, fraudsters are taking advantage of the pandemic’s stolen unemployment benefits and relying on people’s confidence to accept and move money via their bank accounts. The only thing worse than finding out about your new boyfriend is finding out about your new girlfriend.