With Valentine’s Day looming, romance is in the air. If you seek love via a dating app, watch for scammers who only love your money. Scammers are using people to funnel stolen money out of the country. This con may look like a classic romance scam, but victims are tricked into illegal activity and can be prosecuted.
How the scam works:
You join a dating app and start messaging someone who looks amazing. They are the complete package: good-looking, successful, kind… and, most importantly, really into you, too! After chatting for a little while, your new love interest suggests that you chat by text or email rather than through the app. If you do that, you may notice that they also delete their dating profile.
Everything seems great, but soon, your new beau has some unusual – but seemingly harmless – requests. They want you to receive money for them and wire it overseas. They may claim to be helping a loved one battling COVID-19, doing a business deal, or representing a charitable organization. If you refuse, your amorous new beau may become hostile, threaten you, or become distant.
It turns out that the money they want you to receive is stolen. After stealing it, scammers send the money through someone in the United States, making it harder for authorities to trace. Money laundering and wire fraud are illegal! Although the “money mule” is a victim, they may also face prosecution.
Protect yourself from this scam:
Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the internet to use in their dating profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like Google Images to see if the photos on a profile have been stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t. Scammers most often pose as men and target women in their 50s and 60s.
Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
Never send money or sensitive personal information to someone you’ve never met in person. Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for financial or personally identifiable information, like your credit card number or government ID number.
Be very suspicious of requests to wire money or use a pre-paid debit card. These are scammers’ favorite ways to send payments because, like cash, it can’t be recovered once the money is gone.
For more information and to learn how to protect yourself, Google “BBB 10 Steps to Avoid Scams.” If you spot a scam, whether you have lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help protect consumers from similar scams.
Rick Walz is the President and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana, which serves 23 counties. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.