Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. Sometimes though, instead of finding romance, they find a scammer looking to trick them out of money. These are known as romance scams. The goal is to show romantic intentions towards a victim and use the affection gained to commit fraud.

Romance scammers may proclaim they are living (or traveling) outside of the United States. They may say they are working on an oil rig, in the military, or a doctor working with an international organization. They may ask for money to pay for a plane ticket, travel expenses, surgery, customs fees to retrieve something, pay off gambling debt, or for a visa or other official travel documents.

They may ask you to wire money, reload prepaid Visa gift cards, or purchase gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam.

More than 25,000 consumers reported losing $201 million to romance scams in 2019, according to a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report.

It’s not true love if they ask for money.

A female received a message on a dating website from an attractive male. He proclaimed to be in New Jersey. Through instant message contacts, the female realized he was in Brooklyn. The male professed his undying love almost immediately, and quickly suggested marriage.

He sent flowers to her address from the information he found online. Then he mentioned needing to take a trip to Africa to take care of his mother who was dying of lung cancer. He said his funds were depleted and they would not release his mother without payment. He also said he had a United States client that owed him $4,500, but he couldn’t cash the USPS money orders in Africa. He requested the female to cash them and send the funds through Western Union to him in Africa.

Be aware of swift moves like professing love quickly, asking for money, or persuading you into other ways of communicating. “It is a major red flag if someone wants to correspond through a free service like phone or email. They don’t want to continue to pay online dating subscriptions because platforms monitor communications,” Nicole Demarco Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) Officer Fraud Manager at NexTier Bank said.

Scammers may advise their victims to lie about the communications. It’s always a scam if you are advised to lie to your bank staff. Especially if the scammer is requesting a wire transfer. Wire transfers make it impossible to get your money back. Once it’s gone, it is gone.

Resource: Federal Trade Commission report: click here.


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