In the spirit of love this Valentine’s Day, we all want to embrace the idea of being swept off our feet in a fit of wild romance. Chocolate hearts galore, cards of sentiment, luxurious candlelit dinners, and beautiful long-stemmed roses all delight our imagination. Especially if you’re single, you may be fantasizing about the idea of meeting a fabulous new person during this season of adoration (it would make for a cute story!).
While being open and receptive to building new relationships is encouraged, there are some romance scams to be aware of. In the era of digital dating, safety precautions may be less secure than meeting someone organically or through mutual friends. This isn’t to say online dating can’t be successful, there are plenty of stories proving otherwise. However, what you want to be extra careful of is the validity of the person behind the screen.
The FBI reported that in 2020 victims of romance scams lost more than $281 million! It’s a serious matter that unfortunately seems to be growing more and more momentum and tends to spike around Valentine’s Day. Romance scams are initiated by actors who are looking to get quick money through quick “romance”. They may be blinding you in love, so here’s how to detect if you’re the next victim.
THE “ACT” OF LOVE
These trained scam artists will bring the heat on heavily upon initial connection. It’s easy when we’re in a state of vulnerability, seeking new love, to be swayed. You know that saying “you’ve got rose-colored glasses on,” it’s true and you can never be too safe.
When online dating, approach new matches with an air of neutrality so you can detect these warning signs early on…
- The person immediately tries to communicate through email or another messaging system outside the dating app
- Claims to be from your home country, but is currently “traveling abroad”
- Says being introduced to you was “destiny” or “fate”
- Suddenly tells you they’ve encountered a personal crisis and pressures you into providing financial help (even though you’ve never met)
- Disappears suddenly from the site, then reappears under a different name
These actions all exemplify this person is desiring money from you and not a real connection…even though they may be turning up the charm by saying all the right things. A general rule for detecting this major red flag from the start is understanding no one should be requesting money from you, period. Having never met and being in the early stages of getting to know one another, this is an inappropriate request.
THE SHIELD OF SECURITY
If you find yourself in a situation where you have identified your new match as a potential scam, here are some tips to keep in your back pocket…
- Never send money to someone you meet online
- Never give out our credit card or banking numbers without appropriately verifying the recipient’s identity
- Never share your social security number, date of birth or personal information
- Be aware of what you post and make public online, as scammers will use this information to customize their approach when targeting
- Research the person’s photo and profile to see if it’s been used or detected elsewhere
- Be curious about your new match! Ask lots of questions.
If you believe you’re being targeted, or if inappropriate financial requests have been made, be sure to report them in order to stop the cycle (85% of romance scams have gone unreported in recent years, so this is an important step to keep it from perpetuating). The most effective measures of reporting are through your local police station, the Internet Crime Center, or the FBI. This is also a time I want to make sure you have ID protection. You never want someone trying to gather all this information about you to use your ID for new credit, cash checks or pretend to be you using a fake ID.
While you may have had your hopes up that this was your soulmate, don’t be discouraged! There are plenty of other amazing connections waiting for you out there. Continue to use this checklist for online dating adventures as a reminder to be cautious. By sticking to these golden rules, you can protect yourself from falling victim to romance scams.
With these new standards in mind, go enjoy your Valentine’s Day (scam-free) and soak in the beauty of true new connections!