16 Oct Looking for Love? Beware of the Romance Scams
Finding love is one of the high points of a life well-lived, and it increasingly happens online with the myriad dating apps we have nowadays. Unfortunately, cybercriminals know this too and seek to exploit for profit the desire to find a partner. In this article, we’ll provide a run-down on the nasty phenomenon of romance scams.
Research from Stanford University shows that online dating is now the most common way to find a romantic partner. Between 1995 and 2017 the number of heterosexuals (in the USA) who met their partner on the internet skyrocketed from 2% to 39%. Meeting through friends and the workplace — which used to be the most common — are now at 20% and 11% respectively.
In the first six months of 2021 alone, the FBI recorded over 1,800 romance scam-related complaints, with cumulative losses of over $133,400,000. The number of complaints recorded by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) grew from 11,235 in 2016 to a whopping 52,593 in 2020, and reported losses topped $300,000,000.
Older people are more often targeted and more likely to be victims — given they are often more isolated, wealthier, and less online-savvy. The median individual loss from a romance scam for over-70s was $9,475, compared to $2,500 across all age groups.
How Do Romance Scams Work?
A potential dating partner gets in contact, normally claiming to live in another part of the country or to be abroad for business or a military deployment. He or she seems very into you, and suggests you move your relationship to a private channel like email or a chat app. These criminals are masters of deception and emotional manipulation. Once the connection has been established, the scam commences in full.
Over the following weeks and months you develop what feels like a burgeoning relationship. You make plans to meet in person, but something always comes up.
Source: Security national Bank
One day you will get an urgent request, begging for your help. There will be an emergency — normally medical, either regarding them or a family member — and your online companion needs you to send money ASAP, often via prepaid debit cards or a wire transfer.
They will of course promise to pay it back. That will never happen. This cycle of monetary demands will continue until you the victim has no money left, or figure out you’ve been deceived.
How To Protect Yourself
Romance scams are an awful crime, emotionally devastating as well as financially devastating. Follow these guidelines to protect yourself and not become the victim:
1. Be careful what you make public online. Scammers will use details shared on social media and dating sites to better manipulate you.
2. Research the person’s photo and profile. Be wary if they look and/or seem too good to be true.
3. Take your time: ask lots of questions.
4. Beware if the individual rapidly asks you to switch to direct communication.
5. Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family.
6. Beware if they request inappropriate photos or financial information that could be exploited.
7. Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t.
8. NEVER send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
9. Invest in good cybersecurity protection, such as Trend Micro, Norton or Kaspersky.
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