Romance scams are more prevalent than ever, and they target individuals of all backgrounds and ages.
In the age of digital connectivity, many people are forming friendships and potential love interests through social media, mobile game apps, and online dating sites. While these platforms can be wonderful ways to meet new people, it’s crucial to remember that not everyone online has good intentions.
“On the one hand, online dating sites, social media, and mobile game apps have made connecting easier than ever,” said David Kalinoski, Associate Director of Outreach for AARP Pennsylvania, “but the internet is full of scammers eager to take advantage of lonely hearts, and their ranks are growing.”
These are some key things to look for to help identify a potential scam:
- While playing an online game, perusing your social media feed, or looking at prospective partners on dating apps or sites, up pops an invitation to connect.
- You decide to accept the invitation and find yourself communicating with this new friend a lot, and they suggest you move to another mode of communication.
- A romantic relationship develops quickly, and there are plausible reasons you don’t get to meet in person – they are working abroad or serving in the military in another country, or perhaps COVID keeps you from getting together.
- Eventually, requests for money begin. Or, more recently, the love interest professes skill in investing in cryptocurrency and suggests you invest along with them.
- The “relationship” ends when the fake love interest disappears or you realize it was a scam.
AARP Pennsylvania volunteer Kate Kleinert knows firsthand what happens when you’re too trustworthy with strangers online. Since being scammed online for $39,000, she has made it her mission to educate older Americans about romance scams.
“We need to change attitudes about romance scams, and it needs to be made more public,” says Kleinert. “This can easily happen to anyone.”
It’s important to know that romance fraud can happen to people of all ages and is not exclusive to young people. The FTC says that 70,000 people reported romance scams in 2022 alone with total losses of $1.3 billion.
What are some red flags?
When it comes to red flags, the request for money is a big one, but typically other indicators appear along the way. They can include:
- Relationships that develop quickly
- Requests to move off the platform where you first connected
- Never getting to meet in person.
- Use caution when meeting new people online; it’s too easy for shady people to pretend to be someone they aren’t.
- If you have a photo of this love interest, use your browser’s image search feature to see if it is associated with anyone else.
- If you are ever asked for money from somebody you’ve only met online, chances that it is fraud are extremely high.
- Cut off contact immediately if you suspect a scam.
- Notify the platform on which the initial contact took place.
- Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline to talk with a trained and empathetic specialist who will help you understand what happened and guide you on steps to take.
- Consider posting your experience on AARP’s Scam Tracker Map to help warn others.
When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams.
To learn more about how to protect yourself from romance scams, visit AARP.