Although Americans are becoming more diligent against scammers, the scams that tug on our heart strings or hit us where and when we are most vulnerable are still costing us millions every year. That is why romance scams, especially the one known as “Catphishing” continues to be a very lucrative scam.
We’ve seen Catphishing incidences rise along with the increase in popularity of online dating. It occurs when someone “meets” a person online and begins a relationship with someone they believe to be a genuine potential mate. Electronic communications intensify until the unknowing victim believes they are in a relationship with a real person. Pictures, confidences and declarations of affection are exchanged which makes the victim feel they are in love with the scammer on the other end of the messages. They do not realize that relationship is not legitimate and the scammer is simply trying to get personal information and/or money from their victim.
Once the scammer knows they have the victim “hooked” they begin to create fake stories about why they cannot meet in person, such as illness, family issues and financial trouble. This is when the “love interest” claims to be having serious financial problems and asks for money from the victim, or waits for it to be offered. Unfortunately, the scammer may come back to the well several times, claiming more and more hardship until the victim finally catches on and, in some cases, is left penniless.
“Romance scams are one of the most deplorable because they prey on our vulnerabilities and desires to find and to help those we love,” said Melanie Duquesnel, President and CEO of BBB serving Eastern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. “Be aware of the classic signs of a romance scam and never send money to anyone you cannot confirm is real – or they and your money may vanish into thin air.
The classic signs of a romance scam are when the scammer:
To thwart romance scams, online daters should keep their guard up and NEVER send money to people they have yet to meet in person. They should also be cautious when excuses for not meeting in person get more and more suspicious. Most importantly, if you think you have been duped and are in a bad situation, it is important to tell someone, even if it seems embarrassing to do so. You can contact your BBB to report it and get good advice.
More on romance scams and other consumer protection issues can be found here, or by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or calling us 248.223.9400.