Romance Scams On The Rise: Protect Your Heart and Wallet

Mar 7, 2024 | Crypto Scam Defense, Scam Calls | 0 comments

Dating apps and social media platforms hold the promise of finding your soulmate. Yet, they also open the door to becoming a victim of romance scams. Certain people exploit these platforms, seeking to manipulate and seduce others into a false sense of romance. 

By gaining their trust, scammers are able to ask for money or gather personal information with the intent to steal their victim’s identity. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported 64,003 cases of romance scams in 2023, with losses totaling $1.14 billion and median losses per victim of $2,000—the highest for any type of imposter scam.

As the prevalence of these scams increases, in this blog post we will talk about how romance scams work and how to recognize if your potential love interest might be a covert scammer.

What are Romance Scams?

Romance scams, also known as online dating scams or romance fraud, occur when a person is tricked into believing they are in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. In reality, the person they see as their lover is actually a cybercriminal using a fake identity to gain their trust, later intending to steal money or blackmail them.

Social media platforms play a significant role in facilitating these scams, offering a global network for scammers to initiate contact. Instagram romance scams and celebrity romance scams are particularly popular, with scammers often impersonating public figures or creating fake profiles to lure victims. 

The Federal Trade Commission’s Data Spotlight 2023 revealed that in the first six months of 2023, half of the individuals reporting financial losses from online romance scams stated the scam began on platforms like:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat

Apart from the dating apps, this highlights the critical role social media plays in the propagation of these criminal practices.

Woman smiling sitting on a couch with a phone and a laptop

Romance Scams Techniques

Scammers employ a variety of strategies to exploit victims in romance scams. Here’s a summary of some common romance scam techniques.

  • Fake dating sites: These appear legitimate but are designed to harvest personal information, often being underpopulated or overrun by scammers.
  • Photo scams: Victims are manipulated into sharing personal information or intimate photos, which scammers then use for blackmail or fraud.
  • Military romance scams: Scammers impersonate military members, using phrases and titles to build trust, eventually requesting money for supposed military expenses like flights home.
  • Intimate activity scams: After establishing a connection on social media, scammers persuade victims to engage in intimate acts on camera, then threaten to release the recordings unless paid.
  • Code verification scams: Victims receive fake verification codes via email or text, purportedly from a dating service. This leads to requests for sensitive information such as Social Security numbers and credit card details.
  • Inheritance scams: Scammers convince victims they must marry to access an inheritance, asking for financial help with expenses like plane tickets.
  • Malware scams: Malicious software is disguised as legitimate websites, tricking victims into interacting with these sites to compromise their devices.
  • Sugar daddy scams: Scammers claim to be wealthy individuals who offer money for romantic relationships, only to demand an upfront fee or personal information before providing any financial support.

These techniques showcase the scammers’ adaptability and their reliance on psychological manipulation, exploiting trust and emotional connections to manipulate their victims.

Woman holding a phone with the Tinder app on screen

How to Identify a Romance Scammer?

As dating apps and social media platforms become more common in our search for romantic relationships, the challenge of distinguishing genuine connections from fake schemes grows. Here are some key signs and preventive measures to keep in mind:

Quick Love Proclamations

Scammers often express love quickly and intensely, using terms like “dear,” “darling,” or “love of my life” to express a sense of destiny and special connection. This rapid progression towards an intimate relationship is a warning sign, as genuine affection typically develops over time.

Vague or Limited Profile Images

A scammer’s profile might contain a few images, regularly vague or partially obscured, to prevent recognition. Unlike genuine profiles, which usually feature a variety of photos in different settings, scammers’ photos are inconsistent and sparse.

Requests for Money

Asking for money is a definitive sign of a scam, with excuses ranging from travel expenses to medical emergencies. Any online love interest who requests financial support before meeting in person should be viewed with skepticism.

Desire to Move Off the Platform

Scammers prefer to take conversations to private communication apps like WhatsApp or Telegram. This move away from the monitored environment of a dating app is a tactic to avoid detection and removal.

Sudden Emergencies

As plans to meet materialize, scammers often come up with emergencies that prevent the meeting and justify a request for financial help. These stories are designed to manipulate emotions and secure money from the victim.

Hands holding a phone with a dating app profile on screen

How to Avoid Romance Scams

In the culture of online dating and social interactions, the risk of falling victim to a romance scam is high, but there are effective strategies to protect yourself. Here are effective practices to avoid these scams.

  • Never Send Money or Personal Information: Don’t send money, cryptocurrencies, gift cards, bank, or wire transfers to anyone you haven’t met in person. 

Scammers frequently use emotional stories of distress—claims of being sick, injured, or jailed—to manipulate victims into sending money. Remember, sad stories shared online by strangers are typically scam tactics.

  • Skepticism Towards Investment Promises: Be wary of any people promising lucrative investment opportunities, especially in cryptocurrencies, without any prior in-person interaction. 

A significant portion of scams involves tricking victims with promises of financial gain. Always reject claims of easy wealth from new online contacts as potential scams.

  • Verify Identities Through Reverse Image Searches: Conduct reverse image searches of profile pictures and any photos sent by the person. 

This can reveal if the images are stolen or associated with different names, indicating a scam. The FBI also warns against sending personal photos due to the risk of extortion.

  • Insist on Public Meetings: Exercise caution when planning to meet someone from online apps. Arrange meetings in public places, and inform a friend or family member of your location and details about the person you’re meeting. 

Be skeptical of any excuses provided for not meeting in person, as these often signal a scammer’s intent to avoid detection.

  • Open Communication with Trusted Individuals: Share details of your online relationships with friends or family members. Honest individuals will not dissuade you from opening up your relationship with others, whereas scammers might attempt to isolate you to prevent detection.

Anyone can be targeted by romance scams, regardless of age, occupation, or experience. Maintaining a high level of skepticism, verifying information, and seeking the support of communities like the Cryptoscam Defense Network are key strategies for protecting yourself and your finances in the digital age.

Conclusion

Romance scams exploit emotional vulnerabilities, creating complex scenarios of love and urgency to control their potential victims; as a result, their effects go far beyond economic loss, damaging psychological and emotional health.

According to the 2023 Lloyds Banking Group Report, adults aged 55 to 64 are notably more susceptible to romance scams, with incidents in this age group experiencing a nearly 49% increase from 2022. This sudden rise highlights the indiscriminate attack by romance scams, affecting victims across a range of ages and genders.

Dealing with these challenges requires being well-informed and vigilant. The Cryptoscam Defense Network acts as a source of hope, offering resources and community support for people affected by romance scams, other types of digital scams, or those just seeking to improve their digital financial security.

We Want to Hear From You!

The fight against cryptocurrency scams is a community effort, and your insights are invaluable. Have you encountered a scam, or do you have questions about navigating the complex world of digital currency? Maybe you have suggestions or want to share your story to help others. Whatever your experience, we’re here to listen and support you.

Reach out to us at hello@cryptoscamdefensenetwork.com. Share your stories, ask questions, or make comments. Your voice is crucial to building a resilient and informed community. Together, we can improve our defenses and promote a safer digital space for all.

Be a part of the change. Your story matters.

Photos via Pexels.