With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is important to be wary of Romance Scams (also called Love Scams). In a romance scam, scammers target individuals by creating a fake online persona (through social media, email, etc.) and then making romantic advances at the targeted individuals. The scammer will then attempt to connect emotionally with the victim to gain their trust enough to either ask or blackmail the victim for money. These scams can appear in a variety of ways; below are some of the most frequent examples:
A photo scam takes place when a scammer tries to convince their victim to send over sensitive personal information in exchange for intimate photos from the scammer. A reverse of this is also known to occur when a scammer coerces the victim to send intimate images; upon receiving these photos, the scammer will then use them as leverage to blackmail the victim. If your online love interest seems insistent on obtaining your personal information or sends continuous requests for intimate photos, particularly ones that include your face, it is vital to recognize these signs as red flags.
Fake Dating Website Scams
Online dating has exploded in popularity in recent years, with online dating app users increasing from around 200 million users in 2015 to nearly 340 million in 2022. With such rapid growth come many new apps and websites looking to capitalize on this growing market. While some of these upstarts are trying to help you find love, others are scammers looking to manipulate victims and steal their information. These scams involve creating a website under the guise of a typical dating website. However, the user base is either full of scammers who will pry victims for information or the user base is incredibly small so the scammer can steal any info they can get when victims “register” for the site. Reminder, it is important to vet any website before signing up and offering personal information.
Military Romance Scams
Scammers will also try to manipulate victims by impersonating members of the military. These scams revolve around creating a compelling fake military persona and convincing victims they require financial assistance. In this scam, scammers will use a high volume of military-related terms and offer an official title or rank to gain the victim’s trust. They will then claim they need money to cover certain expenses. The most common request for funds is for “flights home” or even flights to visit the victim. In both scenarios, the scammer will simply pocket the money, make an excuse about how they couldn’t come home, and continue to ask for money from the victim. When exploring a relationship with anyone online, it is of the utmost importance to verify that they are who they say they are; failure to do so can lead to catastrophic financial consequences.
These are just a few examples of Romance Scams; many more methods exist, and more will come in the future. Protecting yourself and staying informed on how and when you could be targeted is more crucial than ever. Scammers use any leverage they can get their hands on, and unfortunately, emotionally vulnerable individuals are a common target. Love is in the air around this time of year, but it is vital not to get caught up dreaming only to wake up in a nightmare.
Source: Business of Apps & Norton