What you need to know about romance scams – Police advice

Advice on how to avoid a Romance Scam.

9cdb3a4a e362 433a 92cb 31e530565808 dating online

Every day, hundreds of thousands of people around the world turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone.

But instead of finding romance or the loved one they're looking for, many are faced with a scammer trying to trick them into sending money.

Advice on how to avoid a Romance Scam.

In the US alone, according to the Federal Trade Commission, in 2019, people reported losing over $200 million to romance scams.

"Romance scammers" create fake profiles on dating websites and apps or communicate with their targets through popular social media sites such as Instagram, Facebook or Google Hangouts. Scammers build a rapport with their "targets" to build trust, sometimes by chatting several times a day. Then they make up a fictional story and ask for money.

Fake stories

They often say they live or travel outside the country where their potential victim lives. To trick their victims, they usually say they are:

  • working on an oil rig
  • in the army
  • doctors in an international organization
  • members of multinational corporations
  • members of charities

Based on recorded cases, “romance scammers” typically ask their targets for money to:

  • pay for airfare or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to get something back
  • pay off their gambling debts because their lives are at risk
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

The most common method of paying the money they ask their victims to pay is:

  • via electronic money transfer (Wiring Money)
  • by reloading cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes or Steam

Scammers ask you to pay via money transfer, card reload or gift cards because they can get the cash quickly and remain anonymous. They also know that transactions are almost impossible to reverse, let alone trace.

How to avoid losing money to a romantic scammer

Most importantly: Never send money or gifts to a "loved one" you haven't met in person.

  • If you suspect a romance scam:
  • Stop contacting the person immediately.
  • Talk to someone you trust and see if friends or family tell you they're worried about the person you're talking to.
  • Do an online search for the type and location of work the suspicious person reported to you to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, if a treatment or surgery has been claimed to ask for money, you could search for “surgery scam” or “treatment scam”. You will find and read hundreds of examples and stories of other people falling victim to this type of scam. You will also read some of the fake tricks scammers use to steal your heart and money.

Romance scams will cost you

Before you trust anyone you meet through dating websites and apps, do a reverse search of the person's profile picture to see if it's associated with a different name or details that don't match – these are signs of a scam.

How to report a romance scam

If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card immediately. Tell them you paid a gift card scam and ask if they can refund your money.

If you are a victim or believe that it is a scam, contact the Police Cybercrime Bureau immediately or submit it online through the Cybercrime Complaint/Information Form from the official Police website.

At the same time, notify the website or app through which you encountered the scammer, so that they can take their own actions accordingly.

More about online scams and useful tips CyberAlert.Cy.