5 Romance Scam Warning Signs
Looking for love? Many of us turn to online dating to find ‘the one,’ but things don’t always go to plan.
You might think there’s nothing more dangerous out there than a few hungry catfish, but the truth is a lot more sinister.
Online dating scammers take advantage of vulnerable singletons to bleed them of cash – and their romance scams are getting more sophisticated all the time.
What you need to know about romance scams
Online romance scams are big news, and they’re getting bigger.
In the US, the number of people reporting these crimes nearly tripled between 2015 and 2019, with a total of $201 million being lost to scammers.
These online romance and dating scams are not unique to America, either. Romance scammers operate all over the world, and the internet has given them a new playground to hunt for victims.
The most basic MO for romance scammers is simple:
- They develop an online relationship with someone but never meet in person.
- Over time, they convince their so-called partner to send them money, buy them gifts, or invest in their business.
- They may offer gifts – but ultimately, they will always take far more than they give.
Common types of scam in action
Many romance scammers prey on elderly or vulnerable people. They’ll usually have a story explaining why they’re unable to meet.
Perhaps they’re working abroad, or they have a complex sob story involving a dangerous ex and a shady past.
In general, they will present themselves as the perfect match: intelligent, romantic, hardworking – and, of course, very good looking.
The typical romance scammer gets deeply invested in the “relationship” very early and encourages their victim to do the same.
In this classic example of a scam in action, the scammer convinced his victim that he wanted to marry her – without actually meeting her.
Once an online relationship is established, the scammer starts reeling their victim in.
Maybe they’re going on a trip abroad, and something goes horribly wrong. Maybe they’re on the run from an abusive ex. Maybe they’ve been the victim of crime themselves, and suddenly need money to cover rent.
Whatever the reason, a request for money is made. As time goes by, these requests become more frequent, more desperate, and require larger and larger sums.
New technology, new romance scams
For a long time, scammers operated on social networking sites like Facebook.
However, their tactics were often unsophisticated; people don’t respond well to random friend requests from strangers in foreign countries.
Nowadays, scammers are more likely to be found on free dating sites, where users are actively looking for love – and making themselves vulnerable in the process.
One common piece of advice if you feel you’re being victimized by a scammer is to do a reverse Google image search of their photo.
This might lead to the discovery that your online sweetheart is not who he says he is – or it might not.
In this recent case, the scammer actually had video calls with his victim. Even her friends suspected nothing – but in fact, it was all an elaborate hoax.
The scammer used new technology to create a fake, computer-generated face, and carry on seemingly normal conversations with his victim.
Scammers can also use the latest technology to create supporting documents that seem totally real. For example, this elderly man was led to believe that he was donating money to a museum.
The scammer sent him bank statements, museum documents, and more – all of which seemed completely trustworthy.
However, this is another instance where scammers use their computer skills to fake evidence.
Romance scam warning signs
The easiest way to avoid scammers is to stay away from their usual stomping grounds.
Generally, scammers stick with free dating sites and apps or social networks.
According to WeLoveDates, who operate many paid dating sites, “If you’re serious about avoiding scammers, create a profile on a paid dating site or app. These services can afford to take better care of their clients, and they use the latest AI and technology to find scammers and send them packing.”
Apart from that, here are some key warning signs that your online romance is really a scam:
1. Your prospective partner won’t meet up with you
Of course, very few people will drop everything to rush out on a date twenty minutes after saying hello (and if they do, that’s also a red flag…for other reasons).
However, if your budding romance has been going on for some time, and your partner always has an excuse, that’s a definite warning sign.
2. Your partner makes plans to meet with you, but they fall through
For bonus points, they fall through in the most dramatic style: on the way to the airport, your love interest gets hit by a truck.
Yes, it could happen – but is it likely? If this type of drama happens more than once, it’s definitely past time to say sayonara.
3. Your partner’s pictures don’t seem natural
Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated when it comes to photo “evidence” of who they are, but many of them still fall at this hurdle.
If all their photos look like they were taken at the office, then they might be stolen from someone’s LinkedIn profile.
If they’re all super-sexy, or clearly posed, then that’s another problem.
4. Your partner’s story doesn’t add up
For example, she claims to have a university degree, but her spelling and grammar suggest otherwise.
Do some sleuthing if you need to: find out where she studied, what her favorite bar is if she’s a member of any clubs…then start googling, to see how much of her life actually exists.
5. Your partner goes from “hello” to “I love you” in no time at all
This is hard to gauge, because you may be feeling strong emotions, too.
Remember, though: until you meet someone in person, you should never give away too much.
This is generally good advice for online dating, even if there’s no scam involved. Stay cautious and never overinvest in something that may not even be real.
6. The bottom line on romance scams
Sticking with a paid dating service, rather than a free app, is a great way to avoid most of the scammers. However, always be on your guard, as a few of these criminals may slip through the net.
Remember the golden rule of online dating: until you’re absolutely sure of someone’s intentions, never give your heart – or your money – away.
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