Each year, more and more people fall victim to online romance scams. While most people may think they are immune to falling victim to scammers, there is a wide variety of people from different backgrounds who get conned by these fraudulent tactics. Let’s take a look at some of the tactics behind these scams and how to avoid them.
Are Online Romance Scams Really That Common?
While it is fairly common to read about someone getting scammed online, many people wonder just how common these types of romance scams can be. After all, chances are that you don’t know someone who has lost thousands of dollars as part of one of these dating app scams.
However, you probably know someone who has been approached by a scammer online. You would be surprised at the proclivity with which some of these scammers reach out to victims. In fact, data from the FTC shows that roughly 70,000 people in the United States alone were taken advantage of through these types of scams last year.
However, the number of victims does not tell the full story. That can be instead explained by the financial toll taken by these crimes. Online romance scams cost Americans over $1.3 billion in 2022. That massive amount of money shows how easy it is for someone to end up losing extensive amounts of money through these scams.
Five Stages of Online Romance Scams
Research has revealed that online romance scams typically operate in five stages. The first stage involves creating fake attractive dating profiles in order to lure in victims. These often include lifted photos stolen from social media sites or other places online. Profiles often include people with esteemed or exotic occupations.
After a match is made the second stage begins where victims are groomed with intimacy. Tactics such as love bombing are used in order to create trust and establish a connection much more quickly than normal.
The third stage involves creating fake crises in order to extract money. Typically, these involve emergency stories such as needing money for travel, medical care, or some other need. This is done to encourage the victim to pay money before having time to think about what they are doing and reconsider.
The fourth stage does not always occur. However, sometimes scammers may attempt to blackmail the person into sending more money. Finally, the fifth stage occurs when the scam is revealed. Often, the victim realizes they have been scammed first as these criminals will typically try to continue extracting money as long as possible.
Tactics to Avoid Online Romance Scams
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do in order to protect yourself from becoming an online romance scam victim. Follow these tips to stay safe.
The most concrete way to prevent being taken advantage of by scammers is to never send any financial information or money to someone you do not know in person. This is perhaps the closest thing to a surefire way to avoid being scammed.
Do Not Send Private Photos to Strangers
Similarly, do not send private or nude photos to people that you do not know. Often, these scammers will use these photos to try to blackmail victims, claiming they will distribute them to their friends, family, or employers if they don’t pay up. If the photos are never sent, blackmail cannot occur.
Pay Attention to Spelling and Grammar
In most cases, scammers reside in non English speaking countries but pretend to reside in English speaking countries. Thus, paying attention to spelling and grammar are important ways to detect the potential of a scam. Frequent errors and the use of odd phrasing in conversations are some of the easiest ways to identify profiles that could be scams.
Leverage Reverse Image Searches and Name Lookups
A good general rule of online dating is to do your due diligence. Use reverse image searches to see if photos of your matches have been lifted from somewhere else on the internet. Meanwhile, search a person’s name along with their location or occupation to attempt to validate whether they actually exist.
Consult Family & Friends If You Become Suspicious
Scammers often encourage their victims to keep quiet about their online relationship. This is because they don’t want to risk someone else tipping the victim off that they are being scammed. However, if you see warning signs of a scam, consulting with family or friends is an effective way to help get a second (or third) opinion about whether your online flame is actually legit or could be a scammer.
Ultimately, knowing the commonalities of online romance scams and keeping these tips in mind can go a long way toward preventing you from becoming a victim!