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9 Warning Signs of a Romance Scammer

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The flush of a new romance is exciting, but not when someone wants to scam you.

With the proliferation of dating apps, romance scams are far too common. In 2020, $304 million was lost to romance scams, the Federal Trade Commission reports—a 50% increase compared with 2019. Money losses from romance scams have increased six-fold since 2015. Understanding the warning signs of a romance scammer are critical to keeping yourself safe.

What can you do to not fall victim to a scam on a dating app? Know the scammers’ tricks in advance. Here are several clues that indicate someone on a dating app may really be after money more than love.

Signs of a Romance Scammer

1. Right away, they let you know they are living outside of the U.S.

Living abroad makes it easier to give excuses to not connect in person. Common jobs that scammers may say they have are working on an oil rig, as a doctor with an international organization, or working in the military, according to the FTC.

one of the signs of romance scammers are profile photos that are too good to be true

2. Their profile picture looks too good to be true.

There are lots of good-looking people out there, but if your potential suitor is model quality, it’s reasonable to be a little more suspicious. One strategy: Do a reverse search online for the image, which you can do by posting the image to an online search engine and seeing if anything comes up. For instance, maybe the scammer stole the photo from a website. A stolen photo is one of the easiest signs of a romance scammer and one that you can see right up front.

3. They fall for you very quickly.

No matter how terrific a person you are, always stay on guard if the person you are in contact with via a dating app is laying on the love game overly thick. This could be a way to gain your trust so you may agree to their requests for money in the near future.

4. They tell you they recently experienced a tragedy.

As older adults, it’s not uncommon for people to live through the loss of a spouse or to have a family member who is ill. However, these are common scenarios that are reported as part of romance scams. Keep your guard up if they seem to be focusing on their tragedy to win your sympathy. It’s unfortunate, but one of the typical signs of a romance scammer is that they’ll prey on your emotions.

5. They don’t have other information online where you can learn more about them.

Some dating apps allow users to connect to other social media accounts, such as Facebook or Instagram. If they don’t have this, it isn’t necessarily a red flag. However, it could be a warning if there is no other way you can verify information about the person online. Keep in mind that even if they have social media accounts, those could still be fake accounts set up solely for scamming purposes.

6. They won’t speak on the phone or do a video chat.

This is a natural next step to get to know someone, so it’s fishy if they aren’t willing to do it. Many scammers are hiding behind the disguise they’ve created on the app, so if they aren’t willing to speak over the phone, it’s one of the simple signs of a romance scammer.

7. They say they need money.

They want you to wire them money for an emergency, gambling debts, surgery, or to travel. If you receive a money request, it’s time to stop communication.

8. They ask you to send them gift cards.

Scammers may request gift cards because this helps them to remain anonymous, and the transaction is nearly impossible to reverse, according to the FTC.

9. Something just feels off.

Trust your gut instincts if you think someone on a dating app is looking to scam you. 

If You Miss The Signs of a Romance Scammer

If you become the victim of a romance/money scam, here are a few things you should do, according to the FTC:

• Let the dating app/website know.

• Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.FTC.gov.

• Talk to your bank. If you sent money directly from your bank account, see if there is any recourse with your bank.

• Don’t beat yourself up over the experience. Many people have fallen for romance scams, so you’ll learn from it and remain more vigilant in the future.

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