How you can avoid getting scammed
What is romance and dating scam?
Finding true love online is becoming a common trend in the 21st century. You probably know at least a couple who found each other through dating sites. But did you know that the increase in the number of people searching soulmates online has resulted in the rise in romance scams? Dating scams or what some would call romance scams are nothing new, and such scams have existed since the dawn of the internet.
A romance scam involves feigned romantic intentions towards a victim. The scammer first gains their victim’s affection, trust, and then uses that goodwill to commit fraud. Fraudulent acts related to dating scams may involve access to the victim’s credit cards, passports, money, bank accounts, national identification numbers, or email accounts or gets the victim to commit the fraud on their behalf.
How romance/dating scams work
Target and the website
Romance and dating scams usually take place via online dating websites, live cam sites but in some cases, these scammers also use email or social media (Instagram scam) to make contact with the victim.
Online romance fraudsters used to have to make phone calls to their victims as a first introduction, but nowadays, these scams are more sophisticated and committed by cam girls as well.
A usual scammer would typically create a fake online dating profile specifically designed to lure their victims. They may use fictional names or even falsely assume the identities of well-known people such as aid workers, military personnel, or even professionals working abroad to build trust.
In case of cam girls, the trust-building process is easier, but their risk is higher because they cannot hide behind fake personality, so their play needs to be even more realistic.
Using their fake profiles, romance, and dating scammers will often express strong emotions for you in a concise period and will even suggest moving the relationship away from the online dating website or cam site to more private channels such as WhatsApp, email, or even phone. The point is that the website can monitor their activities as little as possible.
They will go to greater lengths to gain your trust and interest, such as sharing personal information, showering you with romantic words, and even send you gifts.
This process can take days to months just to create a “romantic atmosphere of a lifetime” and some might even fake to book flights to come and visit you, but they never come.
Once they have your trust and when your defenses are down, they will ask (either directly or indirectly) for gifts, money or even your banking and credit card details. Some will also request you to send videos or pictures of yourself.
The dating scammer will fake to need cash for some personal emergency. For example, some will claim to have someone close who needs prompt medical attention such as an expensive medical operation; others will claim to be undergoing financial hardships due to bad luck such as the attack in the street or a failed business.
The romance scammer will also claim that they want to visit, but they cannot afford the travel expenses unless you lend them some money to cover their travel expenses.
At times the scammer might even send you valuable items such as mobile phones, expensive watches, or laptop computers and request you to resend these items somewhere. They will come up will some reasons why they need you to send these items, but this is just but a way for them to cover up their criminal footprints.
Some will send you money and request you to purchase the goods to them somewhere. Some will even request you to accept cash in your bank account and then transfer it to someone else account.
Sometimes the fraudster will claim to have a significant amount of gold or money they need to export from their country and offer you a certain amount of it. They will tell you that they need you to lend them some money to cover taxes and other administrative fees.
Some dating scammers will even lure their victims to travel overseas with the promise of meeting them, but this can put you in dangerous situations that can have fatal consequences.
4 warning signs of romance and dating scams
Even though many people have the perception that you would have to be stupid to fall for dating and romance scams, this is not often the case.
Online scammers are smart and will prey on vulnerable people. On the other hand, people are looking for friendship or love, and with stories of online love becoming more common these days, it doesn’t appear so far fetches that it could happen to them.
There are several tell-tale signs of dating and romance scams.
Showing interest too soon
Online scammers undertake scams as their full-time job. Some run dozens of dating scams at a time. They often don’t want to waste their time and will ramp up a relationship as fast as they can so that they can get to a point where they make their move.
Online dating fraudsters often use a technique known as “LOVE BOMBING” a technique that can be compared to brainwashing. They will shower their victims with affection and love, message, or make phone calls to them throughout the day.
Making fake/broken promises
Whether the con has promised to pay the victim some money or visit them, there is always an excuse. These excuses often seem genuine, and the victim ends up believing. What’s more, these broken promises end up being a gateway for the fraudster to ask for more money.
The scammer will introduce you to others
A circle of highly organized gangs usually runs online dating and romance scams. This means that at times you will be in contact with several people posing as one person. But for even more cunning fraudsters, the victims will be introduced to other characters posing as business partners, travel agents, relatives, bank managers, and more.
Asking for money
A few bucks could seem nothing when you genuinely love someone. A scammer will ask for money to cater for personal emergencies; they might request you to send them money for travel or other expenses. The scammer will ask for larger sums of money for medical costs or invest in a lucrative business.
How to avoid being a victim of dating or romance scam
With over 1500 websites devoted to dating, the world of the internet is ripe for love, romance, and of course rip-offs. But how do you avoid opening your heart, and your wallet, to a prince or princess too good to be true? Below are some ways you can protect yourself online to avoid being a victim.
Never reveal your personal data to anyone you meet online until you meet them face to face and blossom a deep level of trust. While it can be tempting to share your personal details with someone you think is in love with you, just don’t, because that’s what the fraudster is counting on.
Be on the lookout if someone wants to start communicating with you through instant messaging or email immediately. They may be preying on you to get access to your laptop or mobile device to steal your personal information.
Don’t get into a long-distance relationship with a persona you just met online. If possible, stay local, as this drastically reduces the chances of being scammed. Most scammers will target people outside their country or continent to avoid being prosecuted.
Use the search engine to check out potential suitors. First, you can upload their photo on tineye.com or other reverse image search platform, and this will allow you to see anywhere the photo has appeared on the internet. Many dating fraudsters will use pictures swiped from a Facebook group or page, they are even using stock photos.
Do not open attachments from a person you just met online. Some attachments have viruses embedded in them that allow the fraudster to access your computer remotely, or even worst, they can steal your private data. (Maybe you’re also interested: How to stay safe on online webcam sex sites)
In the event you are scammed, report scammers to the relevant authority and to the website, social media, or app where the con first approached you so that others don’t get scammed. Additionally, if you think you have provided your personal details such as bank account details, contact your financial institution or bank immediately.
If you have a story that happened to you, please write us in the comment, so the others can learn about it.