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September 2, 2022

Romance Scams: How to Identify, Avoid & Report Dating Scams

In Romance Scams (2022), scammers pretend to be potential romantic partners to lure their victims. Click here to know more about sign of romance scams & how to detect one!

Love is forever, right? So many of us wish it were, and while some might really find true love, many don’t. Some of us fall into the hands of scammers. Victims lost US$547 million to romance scammers in 2021. Of this, US$139 million was lost in crypto. There are over 1,500 dating platforms and apps demanding the lover’s attention worldwide. Nearly 277 million people will be using online dating platforms by 2024. These romance scams are definitely a nightmare for the victims. They also affect the reputation of dating platforms irreparably.

Types of romance scams

Romance scammers have multiplied over the years. With the advent of technology, they also have moved to more modern ways of scamming. But there are a few core scam tactics which all of them seem to use regularly. Some of them are listed below.

Oh, an emergency! I don’t know what to do!

This is the most common romance scam tactic, the emergency scheme. Scammers will get close to a person and after a few months suddenly come up with a heart-wrenching story. It would be a story perfectly crafted to affect the victim’s disposition, making them respond strongly with emotion. The key in such romance scams is to remain calm. When somebody says, “My six-year-old cat took off yesterday, hasn’t returned, and I do not know what to do,” it is okay to acknowledge and empathize. Do not however respond to a stranger who asks for financial support.

I have this and I am going to use it against you!

Blackmails are another very common romance scam tactic. A possibility is that the scammer procures a video that involves some kind of nudity or creates it on an intimate video call with the victim. The scammer then threatens to use it against the person. In such cases, it is important to be proactive and immediately report the matter to the police or the cybercrime division. The sooner you report it, the sooner the police will be able to stop the scammers before they make the video public.

Can you pass this on to another friend, for me?

Many romance scammers also use the victim as a mule for possessions and money. Be wary, when after a month or two of dating, your heartthrob asks if he/she can drop a handbag at your place, to pass onto someone else. You may be a victim of money or drug muling. Outright refuse such dealings with a person you have just met. You might be party to money laundering and the dealings of an international criminal network.      

I want you to click this link! Will you do it?

In this romance scam, the person will share a link. The scammer might claim it is for a social media profile to add you as a follower. He/she may also claim it is a link that will earn both of you free money. If someone shares a link, it is always advisable to scan it for phishing URLs. There are several websites which provide this service online. If you fall victim to phishing, you will be leaking sensitive information to them. Better safe than sorry.

Signs of a romance scammer

There are some easy ways of identifying a romance scammer. 

Too quick with the 'I love you'

Romance scammers move to confessions of love quickly. They often get to expressing the desire to marry a person and having kids too within the span of a few conversations.

Excuses that most often make no sense

This is a common point in several romance scams. The scammer always makes silly excuses. A common excuse is – “I don’t have a great camera on my mobile and so cannot video chat.” This is how they usually avoid identification. Another one would be, “I am traveling and can’t video chat.”

Stories that are outworldly and unreal

Romance scammers seem to have the most unpredictable and fascinating lives, based on their own accounts! You will hear interesting stories like “I got into a bar fight and now I must pay the bar man.” “But it is okay, you needn’t worry. I have done this before”. This is an indirect attempt by the scammer to get you to pay and appear interesting at the same time.

Asking money at the drop of a hat

Some scammers just can’t tolerate the long wait to get their pocket’s full. They will ask for money, often without any tact, trusting that you would relent and give them the money they want. This could be because of the intimateness of the relationship or the persuasiveness on humanitarian grounds.

How to avoid romance scams

There are some things you can do to ensure you do not fall into the trap of a scammer. Some of them are listed below:

Cross-check profiles before expressing interest. Scammers often copy and paste the information on their profiles from other bios on the internet. See if there is a match with the exact profile information elsewhere. Sometimes a simple Google search helps. 

Turn down any requests for money. Scammers often ask for account or card details indirectly. They may say they want to access an account that has your payment information stored to book a ticket. Discourage such requests. Do not disclose any sensitive payment information to anyone. Even your bank will never ask you for your PIN, OTP etc.

Report the profile to the dating site or authorities. When you have confirmed that the suspected person is a scammer, do not hesitate to contact the authorities. Make a report of how you got in touch with the person, how he/she operates, and how you have responded so far. This will make the site safer for you and several others. 

Follow advice from fellow daters. The people to offer the best advice would be the ones who have been through the trouble you are in. Ask friends who have been in similar situations and ask them what they did. Then evaluate your situation and decide how you could use their inputs to help you.

How dating platforms can catch an online scammer

The primary reason why dating platforms need to catch an online scammer as early as possible is to ensure existing users continue to trust the platform. Second, it also ensures that the platform remains popular and more people join the service in the future. Here are some techniques to catch hold of scammers.

  1. ID and face authentication - Always perform a check using a face recognition system to ensure that only genuine users are registered on the platform. Compare the selfie with a picture on an approved government ID to confirm a match.
  2. Passive liveness detection - Passive liveness detection can ensure that the registration process is being done by a live individual. This acts as an added layer of security for the first step. 
  3. Behavioral fraud detection - Online scammers can be tracked based on suspicious IP addresses, browsing patterns, and other data. They typically also share accounts between themselves.  

How to report an online scammer

An online scammer usually lives by the trade and affects the lives of several people a day. As a user of an online dating platform, it is your responsibility to report suspicious activity.

What are the three steps you can take to report an online scammer?

Report to the online dating platform

Sometimes the best person to take the action is the one who can stand independently and assess both of you. Make a report of how the person behaved and what caused you to raise the red flag.

Contact the authorities

Get in touch with the police or the cybercrime division in your city and area and describe what exactly happened. Also describe details of the incident and why it raised your suspicion.

Call your bank

At times, you were too late to detect the threat and are fooled by the scammer. In such cases, when you have lost money from your account, do not lose heart. Report the incident immediately to your bank with transaction details. Your bank can request the scammer's bank to return it back to you. You could also produce the conversations you had with the spammer and the details of the online platform.

Inform other online watchdogs

There are several sites where victims of romance scams can submit the information of the scammer. Once this information is submitted, it can help other victims and users of dating sites avoid and also report them.

Conclusion

With the proliferation of technology, the number of romance scams and the damages to victims is only going to increase. If you are signing up for a dating site, we hope this helps you. If you are an online dating platform owner, HyperVerge’s identity verification services may be just what you need.

FAQs

How do scammers ask people to pay?

Scammers ask people to wire money to an account or send them money in gift cards from providers such as Amazon.

Who is most vulnerable to romance scams?

Older people are generally more vulnerable to romance scams as most scammers target them for their retirement funds and other benefits etc. Women above the age of 50 are most vulnerable to romance scams.

How can you outsmart a romance scammer?

You can outsmart a romance scammer by:

  1. Approaching relationships slowly
  2. Picking up cues from the scammer’s profile
  3. Asking for a video call early
  4. Maintaining your privacy

What happens if a scammer gets hold of your phone number?

A scammer can abuse, blackmail, and collect money from you. He/she can also impersonate you and collect money or information from others about you.

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