Protect Your Heart (and Wallet): Understanding Romance Scams
You might have seen TV shows like ‘Catfish’ or ‘The Tinder Swindler’’, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Romance scams.
Romance scams come in all shapes and sizes, and can also be referred to as ‘honey trapping’ scams, dating scams or catfish scams. We’ve seen many catfishing scams coming out of Nigeria, using AI to fool victims, reports of a surge in dating scams in South Africa, and an FTC report in the US that states that 70,000 Americans were victims of online romance scams in 2022. A year before that, we reported on dating scams affecting Colombia. Needless to say, this is a global problem.
What Are Romance Scams?
Romance scams are when someone pretends to be in love with you to gain your trust and then uses that trust to take your money. They often start on dating websites or social media, where scammers create fake profiles with attractive pictures and charming personalities. They reach out to people looking for love, and once a connection is established, they begin with their fraud.
Romance scams can take on many different forms
How Do Romance Scams Work?
- Scammers invest time getting to know you. They ask questions, show interest in your life, and make you feel special and loved.
- After a while, they invent a crisis – like a sudden illness or a financial problem – and ask for money. They play on your emotions, making you feel like you're the only one who can help.
- Once you send them money, they may disappear or continue to ask for more, claiming the crisis isn't over. They might even promise to meet you in person but never show up.
How to Protect Yourself:
- Be careful when someone online professes their love too quickly. Scammers often rush the process.
- Search for their photos or descriptions online to see if they've been used in other scams. Reverse image search and see if a profile linked to someone else appears.
- Never send money to someone you haven't met in person, no matter how convincing their story sounds.
- Share your online dating experiences with friends or family. They can offer advice and keep you grounded.
- If you suspect you're talking to a scammer, report them to the dating website or app and to your local authorities.
Protect yourself as well as your money
Online dating can be a wonderful way to find love, but it's important to be cautious. Remember, genuine relationships are built on trust and shared experiences, not on financial demands. So, keep your heart open but your wallet closed to potential scammers, and you'll be on your way to safer online dating.