Valentine’s Day Trap
Valentine’s Day is love season: be careful because romance scammers will steal your heart and money.
Are you looking for love online this year? Or are you searching to find a good date to hook up with? Valentine’s day is fast approaching and that means scam artists are trolling worldwide for victims hoping to dupe them into their web of deceit, and not only steal your money, your identity, they will even coax unsuspecting victims to commit financial crimes like having a person transfer previously stolen money taken from other victims into specialized accounts, and, in the process, break your heart into pieces. Why? Because the person you were enamored with and wanted to be with, was a total fake; a con artist out to bleed you dry, according to an FBI press release report.
Have you seen the Netflix docudramas, “Tinder Swindler” and “Dirty John”? If so, you’ve seen classic cases of romance scammers work their magic on vulnerable women.
And romance scammers have made away with “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
Romance Scam Victims
In 2021, at least 24,000 romance scams victims in the U.S. reported losing around $1 billion in romance scams, the FBI said in a press release distributed to news media outlets around the country. And those statistics are just the cases reported to law enforcement.
A popular romance scheme is called “catfish.” Catfishing involves a con artist who goes online to social media sites and creates an impressive, compelling fake story about their lives. They may identify themselves as a prominent person with lots of success while the individual is nothing more than a thief, hard-core criminal, a lonely person, a person who gets their satisfaction from fooling others or someone with deeply disturbing mental issues.
During the coronavirus pandemic single adults embraced online dating to find love. As stated, some catfishers are bored and need to liven up their daily life but the BBB warns, catfishing is often the first game of a phishing scheme to steal personal information or a romance scam to rip off your hard-earned funds.
In 2019 alone, catfishing scams cost Americans a reported $475, 014, 032, an increase from previous reported amounts of $11, 513, 271, FBI reported. In 2021, some 24,000 romance scams victims in the U.S. reported losing around $1 billion in romance scams, according to the FBI. And those are just the cases that were reported to law enforcement.
“A good line of thought is if it seems too good to be true, it is,” says Heinrich Long, a Privacy Expert at Restore Privacy.
Here are a list of states where most of the catfishing schemes take place:
CNet provides valuable information on how to investigate a romance interest discovered online.
The Game Plan to Steal Your Heart and Money
Tampa Bay news media website gave this riveting account of a typical romance scam:
The article said, ‘Evelyn was smitten when she met a “silver fox” named Robert Wilson on Match.com. He was 62 with a largish nose, but fit, cosmopolitan. Playing the game, Wilson claimed he was an engineer. The woman was duped into believing Wilson had millions in the bank. Evelyn was 63.. And had recently retired in Largo as a project manager for Microsoft. She was divorced while the silver fox she met online said his wife died.’
The couple talked daily either by text or phone. The couple fell in love.
The article further reported, ‘Evelyn was so smitten by the man with the British southern accent until she loaned him $204,000. Robert Wilson was nonetheless a ‘fake!’ He worked with a group of organized criminals in Nigeria.
The woman named Evelyn had been scammed and she lost the majority of her retirement savings. To make ends meet, Evelyn returned to work at 63.
Tim McGuiness, founder of Miami-based nonprofit called Society of Citizens Against Romance Scams told Tampa Bay News that romance scams are more frequent than what’s reported.
McGuiness explains how many people are ashamed to come forward.
“A critical thing to know,” McGuinnes said, “is that virtually everyone can be scammed. It’s only a question of the right grooming and the right story.”
How to spot a romance scam
- The con artists typically use a fake identity and operate on dating and social media sites.
- They often work quickly to build a relationship and even shower their unsuspecting victims with flowers and gifts to win their trust.
- A lot of these con artists appear to live lavish lifestyles to help convince the victim that they are wealthy.
- Some operate only online, while others wine and dine their victims in person.
- Eventually, they all ask for money. They’ll tug on the victim’s heartstrings by concocting stories about medical emergencies, business deals or unexpected bills.
- Once they get their money, they vanish and begin hunting their next victim.
Romance scam red flags
- Beware if someone seems too perfect
- They quickly ask you to communicate directly
- If they promise to meet in person but come up with excuses to avoid it. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- If they try to isolate you from friends and family
- If they request explicit photos or financial information that would later be used to extort you.
- If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, don’t fall for it.
Tips to avoid becoming a victim of romance scams
- Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
- Watch out for strangers who contact you on social media. They often create fake profiles with photos of someone else and try to win the victim over by pretending to be a single parent, widow or widower or member of the military.
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere. If the profiles were recently created and the person doesn’t have many posts or friends, they could be fake.
- Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
- NEVER send money, cryptocurrency, or gift cards to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone even if you think you’re madly in love.
- Finally, if you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. You can report scams whether or not you’ve lost money.
“A good rule of thumb is if it seems too good to be true, it is, ” says Heinrich Long. Long serves as a privacy expert at Restore Privacy.
Police investigators and members of BBB (Better Business Bureau) suggest people who are interested in a person they met online should hire a private investigator to conduct a thorough background check on the individuals to verify if the person is who they say they are.
Final Words: Be careful. Don’t go looking for love in all the wrong places. When in doubt check it out.
Newsblaze Senior Reporter Clarence Walker can be reached at: [email protected]