Scammers’ Tricks To Steal Your Heart & Money
Not everyone using online dating sites is looking for love. Scammers create fake online profiles using photos of other people — even stolen pictures of real military personnel. They profess their love quickly. And they tug at your heartstrings with made-up stories about how they need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel. Why all of the tricks? They’re looking to steal your money.
Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people. And many forge successful relationships. But scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the money.
An online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist.
As if all that isn’t bad enough, romance scammers are now involving their victims in online bank fraud. Here’s how it works: The scammers set up dating profiles to meet potential victims. After they form a “relationship,” they come up with reasons to ask their love interest to set up a new bank account. The scammers transfer stolen money into the new account, and then tell their victims to wire the money out of the country. Victims think they’re just helping out their soulmate, never realizing they’re aiding and abetting a crime.
Here are some warning signs that an online love interest might be a fake. They ask you to:
- They want to move the chat off of the dating site immediately, switching to online chat, Skype, personal email, text, or phone
- They just need a small amount of money (initially) and for you to wire the money using Western Union or Money Gram
- Or they are out of the country and want you to set up a new bank account for them - they will send you checks to deposit
Did you know you can do an image search of your love interest’s photo in your favorite search engine? If you do an image search and the person’s photo appears under several different names, or on anti-cams sites (like RomanceScamsNow.com) you’re probably dealing with a scammer. And if the person’s online profile disappears a few days after they meet you, that’s another tip-off.
Here’s the real deal: Don’t send money to someone you met online — for any reason. If your online sweetheart asks for money, you can expect it’s a scam.
Unfortunately, online dating scams are all too common. The FTC estimates that there may be tens of thousands of victims (unfortunately it is over a million per year), and only a small fraction report it to the FTC. If this happens to you, please report it at ftc.gov/complaint— click on Scams and Rip-Offs, then select Romance Scams.
Also make sure you report it here on our website, this is what drives those image and email searches, since all of our information is indexed by the search engines (except for the identity of the person making the report).
How to Recognize a Scam Artist
The relationship may not be what you think, especially if your sweetheart:
- Wants to leave the dating site immediately and use personal email or IM
- Claims love in a heartbeat
- Claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas
- Plans to visit, but is prevented by a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour
- Scammers also like to say they’re out of the country for business or military service.
What You Can Do About It
You may lose your heart, but you don’t have to lose your shirt, too. Don’t wire money to cover:
- Travel Emergencies - need a plane ticket
- Medical Emergencies - they are sick or injured
- Local Bills - hotel bills, utility bills, etc.
- Hospital Bills - for a child or other relative
- Documents - visas or other official documents
- Or Other Losses - from a temporary financial setback
Don’t send money to tide someone over after a mugging or robbery, and don’t do anyone a favor by making an online purchase or forwarding a package to another country. One request leads to another, and delays and disappointments will follow. In the end, the money will be gone along with the person you thought you knew.
Remember - Don’t wire money to:
- A stranger — in this country or anywhere else
- Someone claiming to be a relative in a crisis — and who wants to keep their request for money a secret
- Someone who says a money transfer is the only form of payment that’s acceptable
- Someone who asks you to deposit a check and send some of the money back
Report relationship scams to:
- Romance Scams Now (us)
- The Dating or Social Media Website
- The Federal Trade Commission ftc.gov/complaint— click on Scams and Rip-Offs, then select Romance Scams
- The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Your state Attorney General - here is a complete list of all U.S. States Attorneys General
Portions Courtesy Of The Federal Trade Commission
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