Internet dating can be fun, exciting…and costly? When the two parties involved are truthful, beautiful relationships can be forged online and even in real life. However, when a sweetheart scammer is behind one of the monitors, trouble can ensue. Learn what to look out for and how to avoid falling victim to sweetheart scams.
Sweetheart scammers, also referred to as romance scammers or a catfish as popularized by a TV show of the same name, prey on individuals seeking love or companionship online. With the aid of a phony profile, and through frequent conversations either online or by phone or text, these individuals seek to gain the trust of others quickly. Often, they’ll fabricate an emergency as an opportunity to request money from their unsuspecting victims.
According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network, more than $200 million was reported lost last year by 20,000 individuals falling victim to online schemers. Do you think you’d know what to look out for?
Let’s discuss some ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of an online scam.
Signs of a phony profile
If something feels or looks off in an online profile, chances are, something is. For instance, if the person with whom you are communicating with is model-like, a reverse photo search might be in order. Similarly, if the profile is incomplete or offers vague information, it could be a sign of a private person, or someone with insincere intentions.
Other things to look out for:
- Profiles without a robust friend list or following
- Profiles with a curious similarity to your own in terms of hobbies or interests
- Profiles with photos only featuring the person with whom you are communicating or featuring stock photographs
Signs of a potential scammer
Beware if the person:
- Professes love or affection quickly
- Asks to move the conversation off the chat or dating website
- Requests money or gifts to handle an emergency medical bill or travel expense
- Offers to meet in person, but always offers an excuse as to why they must cancel plans
As a rule of thumb, it’s never wise to send gifts or money to someone you’ve never met. While it’s possible that online relationships can develop into real life relationships, it’s best to be cautious of individuals who seem too good to be true, or who ask for gifts of money for situations that seem outlandish.
You’re being scammed. What now?
If you suspect that your online friend is disingenuous, the FTC (and all of us at Freedom) recommend that you stop communicating with the individual. If you’ve wired money and suspect fraud, you should report the incident to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
We’ve previously reported on scams during times of COVID-19 but the reality is, sweetheart scams can happen at any time, and to anyone. If you are experiencing any financial hardship as a result of a sweetheart scam, contact us directly so we can talk about possible solutions. We are committed to working together with you.