Endless Love: 5 Tips to Avoid Online Romance Scams.

Keep your eyes open for signs of fraudsters trying to trick your heart – and mind. From big to small, we’ve compiled tips to keep your finances (and your heart) safe.

The romance scam: It’s become a common go-to in the fraudster’s playbook, especially when it comes to online dating and social media sites. Criminals who have grown fond of this tactic would love nothing more than for you to believe they’re here to sweep you off your feet. But in reality, they’re actually looking to swindle you out of your hard-earned money! Don’t give them the time of day.

What Is a Romance Scam?

The idea behind a romance scam (or “online dating scam”) is fairly straightforward: Out of the blue, a too-good-to-be-true stranger reaches out to you through an online dating service or social media network and expresses an interest in sparking a relationship. Little do you know, it’s all a heartbreaking scheme to earn your trust and trick you into giving them money for seemingly plausible reasons.

The Psychology of a Scammer.

Romance scammers are crafty. They often act with a sense of urgency, but can also take their sweet time – months and even years in some cases – to gather as much information about you as possible. This is so that they can tailor a profile and fake persona that matches your interests perfectly. You suddenly find yourself falling in love – but in reality, it’s merely a heartless scam that leads to a broken heart.

What’s even worse is that romance scammers like to target those who are most vulnerable, especially individuals who have recently been through divorce, experienced the loss of a partner or are merely experiencing loneliness. Not to mention, it’s a difficult crime to prove because the criminals are often in a different country. That’s why it’s crucial to know what signs to look for.

Key Signs for Online Romance Scams:

  1. Tell me more about you!
  2. Let’s talk in private
  3. Things are heating up … quickly
  4. Let’s meet face-to-face
  5. Money is at the heart of the matter


  1. Tell me more about you!

    When a stranger first reaches out to you, they might consistently avoid answering personal questions about themselves, or answer with vague details. If they continually insist on returning the focus to you, especially when it comes to sensitive information that doesn’t seem appropriate, it could be a red flag.

    Sometimes this will be as seemingly small as asking for your pet’s name, your birthday or even just your favorite color. However, the danger comes when this information is used to manipulate you into making decisions based on sharing these details of your life. Getting to know someone when forming a relationship is important – just be sure it goes both ways.

  2. Let’s talk in private

    Another classic fraudster act is to move your conversation to a different space, such as WhatsApp, email, text or phone calls. Initially, this might seem like a flattering gesture, but it simply makes it easier for criminals to ask for your personal information outside the security parameters of the dating or social media site you met on. Stay on the initial site for a while to get a feel for the situation.

    If in doubt, consider asking a friend or a family member to join a conversation or read an email to get their opinion on the flow. Sometimes another perspective is helpful to see things without as many feelings.

  3. Things are heating up … quickly

    The person might also express strong feelings right away, making you feel special and suggesting that they sense a deep emotional connection. They might even give you a cute nickname or tell you that they can’t stop thinking about you. If they declare their love for you after only a few conversations, even bringing up marriage, slow things down! A good rule of thumb is if they love you today – and it’s genuine love – chances are, they’ll still love you in a few more months. And those months may be key to really vetting the relationship and that person’s intentions.

  4. Let’s meet face-to-face

    When it comes to showing their face, fraudsters sometimes have excuses that keep them from meeting up or appearing on video, such as a death in the family, a sudden sickness or a broken camera on their device. They could be simply catfishing you, which means they’re using a profile photo that’s actually of someone else and they don’t want you to see their true identity.

    Fraudsters’ stories are often very emotional, designed to invoke sympathy in you in the hopes you’ll let your guard down. Don’t take the bait! Ask yourself if their story is truly believable, aside from any feelings you may have. Do they have anyone that could corroborate it? Could you fact-check it online? In the end, approach the relationship with caution and take your time to ask questions.

  5. Money is at the heart of the matter

    It’s usually at this point that the scammer will make their move, presenting an indirect, subtle or carefully engineered request for money: They’re struggling to make ends meet while caring for a loved one. They want to visit you but don’t have enough money for a plane ticket. They’re in legal trouble and need help paying lawyer fees. Their pet requires a dire surgery to stay alive. The fake scenarios go on and on.

    Ask yourself why they’re not able to fund the request themselves: Do they have a job? Can they ask another family member or close friend for support? Is there a local bank they could apply for a loan through? Offering additional solutions to help fund their situation helps to set up a boundary and the expectation that your support may only be able to be heartfelt.

Pro Tip:

Choose a bank that offers 24/7 fraud monitoring and sends you alerts whenever there’s suspicious activity on your accounts. In the event a romance scammer somehow gets ahold of your financial information, having the right financial institution in your corner will be key.

Listen to Your Heart.

As we’ve established, romance scammers can be very persistent when it comes to trying to swindle you out of your hard-earned money. However, now that you know some of the telltale signs of their handiwork, you’ll be better equipped to protect yourself when they send a communication request. For additional support, consider some of these reminders:

  • Use trusted websites: Aim to only visit reputable sites with strong security measures in place.
  • Spot a fake profile: Watch out for photos that look too professional, an about-me section with hardly any information, few friends, poor grammar or little interaction with other accounts.
  • Search for known scripts: Run suspicious responses through search engines to see if the other person is merely copying and pasting widely used scammer language.
  • Be careful with personal info: Avoid sharing things like your full name, date of birth, home address, phone number and email address. A scammer could easily use these things to steal your identity – or track you down. Don’t automatically assume they have good intentions.
  • Don’t send money! No matter how convincing the other person’s story is, remember that they’re still a stranger. Don’t send cash or provide them with your Social Security number, bank account numbers, wire-transfer details or other financial information.
  • Associate abroad with fraud: Scammers often say they have jobs that keep them in other countries for long periods of time, such as with military duty or oil field work. Take their claims with a grain of salt!
  • Wait on the webcam: Take your time to get to know someone before using your webcam. For one, the footage could be used against you. Also, it can be a doorway to hacking your device.
  • Beware of anger: If someone gets irritated or worked up because you won’t meet their requests, don’t pursue the conversation any further.
  • Trust your gut: If something seems off or too amazing to be real, listen to that instinct. It’s OK to ask the other person questions! You’re allowed to be suspicious if they seem to be avoiding providing answers.

As hard as it is to admit, sometimes love hurts. And if you ever suspect you’re in the midst of a romance scam, cut off communications with the other person immediately. If necessary, notify the website administrator, your local bank and/or the proper authorities as necessary. By staying vigilant, you’ll be better prepared to keep safe personally and financially – For a Better Way of Life.®

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