How many people do you know who met their significant other online? There’s probably a few, because tales of whirlwind romances that started virtually are more and more common these days—but sadly, so too are online romance scam stories. Unfortunately, while this particular form of underbelly criminality used to be relegated to niche chatrooms and online dating sites, they are becoming more frequent on social media. Scam artists are using their nefarious talents to sweep targets on Facebook and Instagram off their feet, meaning that just about anyone can become prey to today’s online dating scam artists. When it comes to avoiding romance scams, knowledge is the first step.

If you don’t think that a money scammer could get the better of you—or even if you’re someone who is embarrassed to have been the victim of a scammer before—you might be surprised to know that dating scams are all too common. Staggeringly, last year romance scams hit record highs, with victims unwittingly sending some $547 million to perpetrators. 

Within the realm of online scams, the human quest for love serves as a tempting target pool. So, don’t underestimate the importance of knowing the warning signs—and, of course, if you have been a victim, know that you are not alone. We’ll get into what to do if you’ve been scammed momentarily, but lets begin first with red flags, and some go-to protective measures.

  1. What Is the Usual Romance Scam Format?

You’re probably wondering how to tell if someone is scamming you online. When you meet someone who seems like the one, how can you know if its true love, or true crime? Well, the good news is that once you’re informed, there are some common red flags that you can keep an eye out for:

  • The person may say that they are located far away, perhaps out of the country, making it impossible for them to meet you.
  • They may push the relationship forward fast, sharing a lot of intimate information about themselves and being quick to say they love you, or even to propose marriage.
  • If on an online dating site, they might try to move communication off the site quickly.
  • They might repeatedly promise to meet, but always cancel at the last moment.
  • Eventually they will begin asking for money, whether it is because of a crisis—like a medical or legal emergency—or for a plane ticket to come see you.
  • They may ask for your bank account information under the guise that they will send you money, when they actually intend to use your data to commit fraud.
  1. What About Precautions and Questions to Ask a Romance Scammer?

If you are using online dating sites, or even more broadly chatting to new connections online, you can adopt these tactics along the way to better protect yourself:

  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to see if they are who they say they are, if their picture is being used anywhere else online, and if it appears in any directories of online dating scammer photos.
  • Google their name to find out more about them and check it isn’t on an online dating scammer list.
  • If using a new online dating site, do a little research, check independent reviews, and ensure that its not on a list of scamming websites.
  • Take your time, asking the person lots of questions and keeping track to ensure that everything adds up.
  • Beware if the person requests private pictures of you, or for any kind of sensitive data, such as home address, social security number, or financial information. Never share anything that you wouldn’t want in the public domain.
  • Don’t allow someone you met online to isolate you from friends and family.
  • Never send money, credit, or vouchers to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • If in doubt, talk to a friend for a second opinion.
  1. What To Do if You’ve Been Scammed

Many people who have fallen prey to a romance scammer feel embarrassed or ashamed, but it is important to remember that you are the victim of a crime, and that the scam artist is the one at fault. If you suspect that you have been scammed, it is important to report it to the FTC right away—both for your own sake, and to protect potential future victims. There is often an emotional fallout following romance scams, in which case seeking out a romance scam support group may be helpful.

If seeking justice or hoping to reclaim money lost to a romance scammer, your greatest ally is certainly a romance scam investigator. This is because a private investigation firm like Lauth Investigations International is in prime position to focus greater resources on seeking out the culprit and, all importantly, providing the necessary evidence to shut them down. For victims who feel that traditional law enforcement have let them down in this area, launching a private romance scam investigation can be a fantastic way to reclaim power and achieve peace of mind.
Whether you’ve been impacted by dating site scams or romance scammers on social media, the Lauth Investigations team has your back. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you turn the tables, leaving dating scams in your rear-view once and for all.