Romance Scam - “The Internet makes this type of crime easy because you can pretend to be anybody you want to be.” - special agent, FBI
To stay safe online, be careful what you post, because scammers can use that information against you. Always use reputable websites, but assume that con artists are trolling even the most reputable dating and social media sites. If you develop a romantic relationship with someone you meet online, consider the following:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Go slow and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally. “If you don’t know them, don’t send money,” Beining said. “You will see what their true intentions are after that.”
- If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately.
- If you’re communicating with someone on a dating site, think twice if your romantic interest suddenly asks you to communicate on another platform or phone. Treat the request with caution.
- If someone asks for money, help or any other sort of financial assistance, that’s a red flag.
- Don’t help open a new bank account or transfer or ship merchandise.
- Alarms should go off if someone asks you to buy them reload cards or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, and iTunes.
- Scammers like to claim to be U.S. soldiers serving overseas. They may indeed be legitimate servicemen, but it still pays to be wary.
- Don’t share any of your personal data, such as bank account information, Social Security or credit card numbers.
- Do a reverse image search to check whether someone's profile picture is being used elsewhere and where. You may be able to learn whether it is linked to reporting on other scams or victims.
And if you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. and report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Also, inform the website or app where you met the scammer. And if it turns out that you did buy a gift card for a romance scammer, contact the card issuer and let them know that you paid a scammer with the gift card. There are no guarantees but ask if whether they can refund your money.