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How to avoid romance scams

minute read

    Quick insights

    • Romance and dating scams happen when fraudsters adopt a fake online identity to gain someone’s trust and affection.
    • When paired with the simplicity of mobile payment platforms, virtual dating can pose risks of financial scams.
    • There are red flags that you could identify to help avoid romance scams.

    One major appeal of online dating is the convenient way you can possibly find a meaningful romantic relationship. As with most online activity, it is important to exercise caution when dating over the phone and internet. Romance scams are unfortunate crimes of emotional manipulation that can have serious financial consequences.

    In this article, we’ll offer ways you might be able to avoid falling victim to a romance scam.

    How romance scams work

    Stories about romance scams can start the same: Someone meets a potential partner on an app. But the prospect is a scammer and may want to quickly start chatting off the dating platform—text messages, emails and even phone calls. This is the beginning of an elaborate effort to lure you into an exciting, romantic relationship and gain access to your money.

    A romance scammer could take any number of steps to gain your trust. This could even include creating multiple fake profiles across various reputable social media platforms. However, at some point the conversation will turn towards discussing your finances. There's usually some urgency to the request, such as an unexpected personal emergency or spontaneous travel plans to meet up with you.

    Romance scam red flags

    Here are a few things to beware of when you interact with someone you met online.


    Romance scammers will often shower a victim with devotion quickly in various ways: making contact several times a day, committing to a relationship, proposing marriage, etc. These can be attempts to emotionally manipulate you into trusting and believing in them. Sometimes, a scammer may not even be an actual person. They could be using a computer code or even AI to generate messages and chat with you.

    A fancy social media presence

    Scammers put a lot of effort into creating an online persona and boasting impressive credentials. Their profiles might highlight a high-paying job, elite education and images of material wealth. These can easily distract people from suspecting that their interactions are based on a false premise. When a request for money arises, you might then assume it’s genuine.

    A conversation about money

    One of the biggest warning signs of fraud is usually when someone you know only online needs money for an emergency. Whether it’s been a few days or a few months, be wary when a romantic prospect asks for money. Scammers devise many reasons to ask for money, and this is one of several potential signals that you may be facing a romance scam.

    Tips to avoid romance scams

    It’s important to be cautious when sharing personal information online. Listed below are several important tips to help protect yourself in the face of a possible romance scam.

    Examine photos

    Fraudsters often entice their victims by sending attractive photos. Use reverse-image searches to reveal if your romantic interest’s photo is legitimate, or if it’s been lifted from another website. Images can even be lifted from unsuspecting individuals’ social media profiles.

    Don’t send or accept money

    Don’t send checks, cash, wire money or exchange money on mobile payment platforms with someone if you haven't verified their identity. No matter how real the relationship might seem, not sending or accepting money includes any type of cryptocurrency. A good practice is to reject money online from people you don’t know.

    Don’t buy gift cards

    Gift card scams are prevalent across the internet today. Romance scams are no exception. Fraudsters often ask their victims to reload prepaid debit cards or send them gift cards from almost any merchant. These transactions are similar to cash and can be irreversible.

    Report your experience

    Many scams go unreported due to a victim’s embarrassment. If you’re suspicious or have already been a victim of a romance scam, report it to both the FTC and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. You can also notify the website or app where you met the scammer. Your reporting could help yourself and other potential victims from ending up heartbroken—and broke.

    In summary

    The tactics that play on someone’s perceptions and emotions with the prospect of romance can be hard to detect. Be suspicious if someone professes their love for you quickly or pressures you to do something that makes you uncomfortable. Creating a sense of urgency is a common fraud tactic, particularly when you’ve never met someone in person.

    This makes knowing the red flags of romance scams crucial if you want to protect your money when not dating in person. Fraudsters who operate on dating apps do not discriminate in choosing their victims. They target all genders and age groups. Love is blind, but a romance scammer isn’t.

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