With so many online scammers out there, this valentine’s day or any other day, you may fall victim to romance scams anywhere in the United States if you’re not careful. Although these romance scammers are active all year round, it is the weeks leading up to Valentine’s day when they work full-time to take advantage of emotional people and their vulnerabilities. It is crucial to remain cautious about what you share online, as con artists are everywhere.
Ehline Law is a leading and superior personal injury law firm that has been helping protect the rights of Californians and Texans since 2005. In this article, Mike Ehline, Founder of Ehline Law, has some essential tips for Californians and Texans looking for love online to help them identify scammers and avoid becoming victims of romance scams.
Fostering New Connections Has Led to 79,700 Reports of Romance Scams
The Federal Trade Commission, an independent agency that has protected America’s consumers for over 100 years, reported 79,700 reports of online romance scams, which totaled $547 million in financial losses, an average of $2,400 per victim. What’s shocking is that these figures are an 80% increase since 2020!
The most vulnerable to online romance scams are older people, especially those over the age of 70. In 2021, elderly people suffered financial losses of an average of $7,600 per victim. There was a case involving Borin Khoun, who scammed two older people from California and Arizona for $230,000 and, in June 2022, pleaded guilty to multiple counts of theft.
Tinder Swindler: Online Romance Scammers and Their Dirty Tactics
Online scammers create fake profiles on social media platforms and dating sites with attractive pictures to grab the attention of lonely men or women looking for love.
These scammers quickly let victims know they’re either serving in the military or outside of the country to avoid meeting the victims in person. Once they interact with the victims, they often take the conversation over email, moving away from social media platforms.
During email conversations, the scammer’s only goal is to gain the victim’s trust and friendship, while the victim keeps believing that there is some romantic connection between the two. Once they’ve earned their trust, the romance scammers ask the victims to share sensitive data, send money, perhaps for a flight ticket or visa, or to get them out of serious trouble.
Using a fake online identity, the scammers will ask the victims to wire them money or send gift cards or cryptocurrencies, which makes it extremely challenging to trace the money to the scammers, making it nearly impossible to get the money back.
Some romance scammers disappear immediately after the victims send money, while others stay a bit longer and continue to pry into the victim’s vulnerabilities and emotions in a bid to leech more money out of them.
Tips for Avoiding Romance Scams
Here are a few tips you should follow to avoid online romance scams:
- When the person in an online relationship over the dating app or social media platform cannot meet in person after the online dating gets serious, that’s a sign of caution.
- Tineye.com and images.google.com are two websites that can assist you in doing a reverse image search which can help reveal whether the pictures have been used for multiple online identities.
- Avoid sending money to or sharing financial information or personal details, such as a social security number, with online romantic partners you have not met.
- Never open a bank account for an online romantic partner, as you may be assisting them in laundering money.
- Avoid giving your telephone number to online romantic partners and stick to the dating app instead.
- Limit your social media profile to people who can see you. It can help avoid scammers searching and reaching out to you.
- When you meet someone new online, it’s best to go slowly, ask them a lot of questions, and have a vetting process in place before starting a relationship.
- If you suspect something is off about your online romantic partner, it is best to reach out to a close friend and family member and talk to them about it. Having a second opinion on a relationship from a different perspective can help you identify online scammers.
If you’ve lost money to a scammer or believe that your online romantic partner may be a scammer, you may want to consider following the tips below:
- Cut off all communications with the scammer.
- Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately to find out if they can get back your lost money.
- Inform the online dating website or report the scammer on the social media platform.
- File a complaint with the FTC by visiting the following link: https://ftc.gov/complaint.
- Inform the Federal Bureau of Investigation about their Internet Crime Center at http://ic3.gov/.
- Visit the Consumer Protection Division website to learn more about what you can do if you’ve become a victim of an online dating scam.