All crimes that seek to steal money or sensitive information through deception are loathsome. But perhaps the most pernicious involves crimes of the heart. Online romance fraud is rampant and growing according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and it isn’t just dating sites where these criminals lurk.
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.
It’s important know that romance fraud can happen to people of all ages and is not exclusive to young people. In fact, the FTC says people aged 40-69 have been the most likely to report losing money to a romance scam, and people 70 and over report the highest median losses — $9,475 in 2020 alone.
When it comes to red flags, the request for money is definitely a big one, but typically there are other red flags that appear along the way. They can include:
- Relationships that develops 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.
When it comes to fraud, vigilance is our number one weapon. You have the power to protect yourself and your loved ones from scams. Please share this important information with friends and family.