< 1 minute read|Published by FAIRWINDS

Protect Your Heart and Wallet Against Romance Scams

In 2022, the FTC reported nearly 70,000 people fell for a romance scam. But what exactly is a romance scam, and how can you avoid becoming a victim?

Two people going on a date.

With the convenience of meeting new people on social media or through online dating platforms comes the risk of romance scams. In 2022, the FTC found that nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam, with losses totaling $1.3 billion. But what exactly is a romance scam, and what should you watch out for to ensure you don’t become a victim? 

Roses are red, but so are the flags...

A romance scam is when a fraudster creates a fake online persona to target people looking for love or companionship. While you may think you’ve met the perfect match, it could be a scammer looking to steal your personal and financial information.  

To protect yourself from romance scams, it's crucial to be aware of common warning signs. Here are some lies a scammer may tell to watch out for: 

They Avoid Meeting in Person

If your online match consistently avoids meeting in person or continues to make excuses, it could be a sign that they're not who they claim to be. A scammer could say that they can’t visit because they live far away, or that they are on an oil rig or ship. 

They Make Quick Declarations of Love

Scammers may profess their love very early on in the relationship to cloud your judgment. By making promises of lifelong love almost immediately, they hope to establish an emotional connection before you have a chance to question their authenticity. Take the time to evaluate whether you really know who this person is and be cautious if they are professing their love at an unnaturally fast pace. 

They Lead the Conversation Toward Money 

Scammers typically make up stories to create a sense of urgency, gain your sympathy, and ask for money. 

According to the FTC, the most popular lie told by romance scammers was that “I or someone close to me is sick, hurt, or in jail.” Another common lie is when they say, “I can teach you to invest.” This is a way for a scammer not only to steal your money but also gain access to your financial information by trusting them with your accounts to help you “invest.”   

If someone is trying to steal money from you, they will ask you for a payment method that is permanent and can’t be undone by your bank or credit union. Some of these payment methods include sending money through cryptocurrency, a wire transfer, a mobile payment app, or gift cards. 

How You Can Protect Yourself

1. Never Send Money to Someone You Haven’t Met

No matter what their story may be, never send money to someone you don’t know or have never met in person. Remember, a scammer’s goal is to manipulate your kindness and need for connection to separate you from your wallet. 

2. Keep Your Personal Information Personal

Be cautious when sharing personal details with someone, and never share your home address, financial details, or other sensitive information. What may seem like “small talk” may actually be a scammer’s attempt to uncover common security questions—like the name of a beloved pet or a street you grew up on. 

3. Try to Verify the Person’s Identity

It can be difficult to tell who you are really talking to online. Use video calls or request recent photos to ensure the person you're talking to matches the images on their profile. 

Also, try to do a reverse image search on Google to search the person’s pictures you received. Since scammers often use stolen photos, you would likely find the pictures associated with someone else’s name online if it is a scam. 

4. Report Suspicious Behavior

If you suspect someone is a scammer, report the account to the social media platform or online dating site where you met the person and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. This helps protect others from falling victim to the same fraud.  

Remember, if you think something is too good to be true, it probably is. By staying aware and recognizing these red flags, you're not only protecting yourself from heartache – you’re protecting your personal and financial information.