A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam, is when a person is tricked into believing they’re in a romantic relationship with someone they met online. In fact, their “other half” is a cybercriminal using a fake identity to gain enough of their victim’s trust to ask — or blackmail — them for money.
Often, the advances start on dating sites or apps. But they’ve increasingly begun on social media, too.
Here are some telltale signs a cybercriminal may be up to more than just sweeping you off your feet.
They’re far, far away
One of the first giveaways of a romance scammer is their background. Fakers often pose as someone who is stationed abroad to create a reason for why they can’t meet in person.
Their profile seems too good to be true
A dating profile might be fake if the person doesn’t list any details. Or maybe their interests and hobbies just about exactly match yours — the similarities might be too good to be true.
The relationship moves fast
Romance scammers want to act fast before their targets catch on to their antics. For this reason, they like to gain your trust right away. Many online dating sites offer some type of safety features and if you move your conversation off them to talk using text messages or other chat options, you lose those safety measures. Plus, the person will have your phone number, which could make it harder to cut communication.
They break promises to visit
Romance scammers want to keep their identities a secret. One way to keep you from questioning their identity is to promise to come visit. They may even have you pay for plane tickets or other travel costs. But they’ll cancel at the last minute, providing an elaborate reason for why they can’t see you after all.
They claim they need money
If your online love interest asks you for money and you haven’t even met them, beware. A romance scammer may ask you to send money for things like travel expenses, medical expenses or gambling debts. And they usually have a sob story to back up their request.
An alternate money scam to watch for: They may send you money! This could rope you into a “money mule” scheme, whereby the scammer asks to deposit money into your bank account, distribute the funds to other people, or deliver packages. In fact, these requests could be tied to money-laundering.
They ask for specific payment methods
Be cautious if your cyber sweetheart asks you to send them money via wire transfer, preloaded gift cards or a newly-established bank account in your name.
These are ways to get cash quickly and remain anonymous. Plus, the transactions are hard to reverse. Once you send a little bit of money, they might even ask for more. If you say “no,” their messages may get desperate and aggressive.