In today’s digital world, a majority of dating begins online, either through dating apps or social media. But with an increase in online activity, online scams are also on the rise. Over the last few years, a new type of scam called Sweetheart Scams, or Romance Scams, has become a common way for con artists to trick people into sending them money or personal information, often without ever having face-to-face contact with the victim. With this in mind, let’s dive a little deeper into Sweetheart Scams.
Sweetheart Scammers often target widowers or divorcees; however, anyone can fall victim to one of these scams. They will either use dating sites to match with you or take information off your social media pages and claim they have a mutual friend in common with you. This is how they hook you in. They will likely have fake profiles and pictures and will strike up a relationship with the victim to build their trust. These usually are not overnight scams. Sweetheart scams take time to develop and can last for weeks, months, and even years.
Once these con artists have a relationship with the victim, they will quickly profess their love and tug on the emotions of the victims. Some will ask for money with fake stories, such as having a family member in the hospital who needs an operation or they are traveling and ran into some legal trouble that has frozen their assets, and they need to get back home. Whatever excuse they use, victims are duped into sending money or providing sensitive information such as Online Banking credentials or Credit Card information. Some scammers may even request intimate photos or videos from their “lover,” which can then be used as blackmail.
In 2016, the losses associated with romance scams or confidence fraud complaints exceeded $230 million in the United States. What’s worse is that these scams are very difficult to prove, and once the money is sent, it is unlikely that the victim will receive any of the funds back. Not only do these scams do financial harm, but they also take an emotional toll on the victims as well.
So, what can you do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim? Check out these tips provided in the article, FBI in a Romance Scam:
- Research the person. Review their profiles and fact-check things where you can. You can also run their photo through Google’s photo search to see if anything comes up online.
- Start slow and ask questions.
- Beware of “Mr./Mrs. Right.” Sometimes too good to be true means it’s too good to be true.
- Use caution if the individual wants to isolate you from friends or family, wants to leave a dating site and go “offline,” or requests inappropriate photos or financial information.
- Question why someone promises to meet in person but always comes up with an excuse as to why they can’t. If it’s been months without a face-to-face meeting, you have a good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally. Rejecting their request will allow you to see their true intentions.
If you suspect you’re a victim of a romance scam, stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. If you have given out your account information, contact your financial institution at once. While they may not be able to give you back your money, they could help prevent future transactions from hitting your account. If you have concerns about your account with Yolo Federal, contact a representative at (530) 668-2700 or schedule an appointment.