Do you know the red flags of a romance scam?
According to the Federal Trade Commission, romance scams have continued to rise and account for the highest losses of any other type of consumer fraud. In 2018, reported losses totaled $143 million and in 2019, losses were reported at $201 million – an increase of nearly 40%. (www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/02/new-ftc-data-show-consumers-reported-losing-more-200-million)
If you are one of the 40 million Americans using online dating, you should be aware of the techniques used by fraudsters to win your heart and steal your money. Even though 57% of online daters are concerned about being a victim of a scammer (www.kaspersky.com/blog/online-dating-report), they are often blinded to the signals that someone is grooming them to hand over their money.
Specific language that fraudsters use:
- “You are the only one who can help me.”
- “I will come to [your city] as soon as I’ve completed my [overseas] trip.”
- Quotes from song lyrics or poems presented as their own sentiment.
- Use of endearments early on, “baby”, “honey”, “sweetheart”, “my love”, “my queen/king”.
- Foreign terms such as “petrol” (fuel), “post code” (zip code), “I slept off” (from Nigeria), pidgin English.
- “We are destined to be together”, “I will love you forever.”
- “I’m going to kill myself if you don’t help me.”
- “I’m a God-fearing person.”
Red flags that you may be communicating with a romance scammer include:
- Encourages you to communicate with them off the dating site almost immediately.
- States they are or are soon going offshore or out of the country for business or military reasons or doing business with a foreign entity.
- Professes their love for you very quickly within a couple of weeks or even a few days.
- Claims they have no video capability, or their computer camera is broken.
- Tells you they are originally from a foreign country to explain any accent if you speak to them by phone.
- Uses bad grammar, incorrect capitalization, curious wording, and peculiar references (which they try to explain away by their foreign origins and English as their second language).
- Spotty internet/telephone connection, signaling they may be in a country that has poor service (such as Nigeria).
- Begins to weave a story that they will be traveling soon, which eventually puts them in an emergency situation requiring money that they don’t have readily available.
- Will talk about trust, understanding, honesty.
- Discrepancy in time activities such as saying they are going to bed for the night when it is morning where you are.
- Calling you by their last name as part of their grooming process, inferring that they want to marry you and that a spouse will do anything for them.
- Quotes scripture, if you have established that you are religious, to set up a moral obligation when they start to ask you for money.
- Gives mismatched physical attributes when speaking about themselves or you (their profile states they are 6 feet, but when talking with you they say they are 5’10”; they mentioned they like your long hair, but your picture shows that you have short hair.)
- Urgent and repeated requests once they have asked you for money.
Precautions you should take:
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER send money to anyone from a dating site that you have not met in person! This precaution is first, because even if you don’t follow any of the other precautions below, this is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself from a romance scammer.
- As soon as anyone asks you for money, stop all communication with them, block them from your dating profile.
- Communicate only through the dating site/app until you decide to meet, virtually on camera or in person. If the person won’t meet on camera, do not go off the dating site to communicate.
- Use Google image search to determine if there are matches to the photo(s) provided on the dating site. You may find their photo is copied from an actor’s or advertiser’s website.
- Insist on a video chat/call. These days, anyone on a dating site should have the capability to have virtual meetings. If they don’t, it’s a red flag.
- Have a thorough background check performed by a licensed investigator.