Online romance scammers are busy stealing money and hearts across the United States.
Just this week, federal officials announced that they charged 80 people – including Nigerians based in Los Angeles – in businesses and romance scams worldwide.
Here’s how to avoid getting your heart and money stolen:
They claim to be in these professions
Romance scammers start off with fake profiles using someone else’s identity. Their alleged location is never in your city – they claim to be deployed in the military, working at an oil rig overseas or a doctor embedded with international groups, the Federal Trade Commission says. That way, they can ask for money to pay for seemingly legitimate costs such as travel visas, plane tickets and hospital bills.
They insist on anonymous money transfers
When asking for money, romance scammers rarely use regular money transfer process such as a checking account. They opt for gift cards so they can turn them into cash. “Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer,” the Federal Trade Commission said.
After they get the gift card number and its PIN, they can immediately retrieve the money loaded on it and the process is difficult to reverse. “Once they’ve done that, the scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace,” the FTC says. “Here’s the thing: Never send money or gifts to a love interest you haven’t actually met. It’s a romance scam.”
They move fast on the relationship
Romance scammers don’t always start on dating apps. Others start on social media, with Facebook messenger especially popular, the FTC says.
As online dating becomes more popular and romance scams increase, the FTC warns people to become suspicious of any online relationship if:
All the tips discussed here came from the Federal Trade Commission’s website, which monitors reports of fraud in the US. For more on romance scams and how to report them, click here.