Romance scams are in the air

With many people quarantining and keeping their social distance, there’s been an uptick in scams perpetrated through dating websites. The rise in romance scams is particularly insidious because it often preys on vulnerable widows and widowers longing to make a new connection. These scammers are rarely identified or caught because the scams originate from a foreign country.

How romance scams work

Most romance scams follow a tried-and-true formula. Scammers use dating sites to connect with a target and apply their charm to develop an intimate relationship through extended emailing, texting and phone chats. As the relationship deepens, plans are made to meet up over coffee or dinner.

In the meantime, the scammer begins to test the relationship by claiming the need for $50 to tow their vehicle which is broken down. Happy to oblige, the victim wires the money. Somewhere along the line, the scammer ups the ante by claiming the need to cover an emergency medical expense. The $50,000 he needs would only be a loan, with a promise to repay it as soon as possible. Once the victim wires the money, the scammer is never heard from again.

If you are looking to make a connection online, take the following precautions:

  • Proceed slowly and ask a lot of questions.
  • Crosscheck the person’s profile to see if they appear elsewhere. Be suspicious if they don’t.
  • Don’t agree to leave the dating site if the person wants to communicate offline.
  • Be suspicious if the person is quick to proclaim deep feelings for you.
  • Avoid people who claim to be U.S. citizens working overseas.
  • If you haven’t met in person after a few months, walk away.
  • General rule: Don’t ever send money to people you haven’t met.

If you spot any of these red flags, stop all contact and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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