BBB Tip: Romance Scams

  
     

phone with heart and police tapeOnline dating and social media have made it easier than ever to meet new people and find dates. Unfortunately, it has made scammers’ work simpler too. Con artists create compelling backstories, and full-fledged identities, then trick you into falling for someone who doesn’t even exist. This form of deception is known as “catfishing.”

How the Scam Works:

Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can’t meet you in person. Over a short period of time, the scammer builds a fake relationship with you, exchanging photos and romantic messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.

 

Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, your new sweetheart has a health issue or family emergency, or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: they need money. But after you send money, there’s another request, and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether. 

 

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Special thanks to Better Business Bureau of Central Oklahoma for the video.

Tips to Spot This Scam:

  • Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting. Someone really interested in a relationship will want to see you in person. Be wary of someone who is constantly "traveling" or happens to be overseas. Even if you are very tempted to help an online friend, never send money or reveal personally identifiable information to someone you have not met in person or have not verified as reliable. 
  • Take note if your romantic interest has a photo that doesn't match his/her profile. Lots of people fib in their dating profile, adding an inch of height or subtracting 10 pounds. But be on the lookout for big discrepancies. For example, a scammer may describe their fake persona as blonde but uses a photo of a brunette. Or they may forget certain details they previously shared.

To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.

To learn how to protect yourself, go to “10 Steps to Avoid Scams”.

Last reviewed:  March 2, 2017