Romance scams are breaking hearts and bank accounts worldwide. Here’s how to keep your money and emotional wellness protected.
What is a Romance Scam
Romance scams have made a comeback in 2020 and have left many victims feeling both emotionally and financially distraught. The online fraud, which preys on an individual’s emotions and trust, involves fake romantic intentions by scammers towards their victims. Once trust has been established, the criminal uses the victim’s kindness and generosity to commit a variety of fraudulent acts.
Such acts may include, for example, gaining access to the victim’s money, credit cards, bank accounts, identification numbers, emails, and social media accounts. Other examples include more nefarious acts such as forcing victims to commit financial fraud on their behalf.
A typical romance scam is most-often committed by organized crime syndicates that collaborate and target multiple victims. Elderly citizens tend to be favored targets of online romance scams as they generally have had a chance to build up their wealth, such as retirement funds, life policies and physical assets.
According to reports, more money is lost as a result of romance scams than any other online scam. In 2016, for example, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) reported an incredible $220 million was lost by individuals who fell victim to romance scams. This number is reported to be around seven times the amount lost to phishing scams and almost 100 times what was reported stolen as a result of ransomware attacks.
And the numbers seem to be rising sharply. A staggering $475 million was reported stolen due to online romance scams in 2019,with cases peaking at 19 473.
Signs you Might be Involved in a Romance Scam
There are a number of signs that might indicate that you are involved in a romance scam. If the following scenarios seem familiar, it is recommended to proceed with caution:
- Your online contact claims that he or she is in love with you after a very short period of time
- Your contact claims that he or she is overseas for business or military purposes and therefore cannot meet you in person
- Your contact requests money for a number of compassionate-sounding but suspicious reasons
Steps to Take to Avoid Losing Money in a Romance Scam
Long story short, never send money to an online love interest that you have not met personally.
Here are a few tips recommended by experts to protect yourself when meeting people online:
- Check Out Their Stories. When chatting with people online, try and verify their information with a Google search and have a look at their social media profiles. Email addresses can be cross referenced through RomanceScams.org, which keeps a record of email addresses of known scammers.
- Perform an Image Search. Take the person’s profile photo or any additional photo he or she may have sent and run them through a reverse image search engine such as Google Images. The results should give you a good indication with who you’re dealing with.
- Don’t Rush Things. One of the warning signs of a scam is when an online interest tries to commit to a relationship too quickly. Take your time and ask lots of questions to get the best possible understanding of who you are dealing with.
- Arrange to Meet in Person. Those who are serious about a relationship should want to meet in person. If the relationship has gone on for a considerable amount of time and there is always an excuse to meet in person, it’s a good sign that something is wrong. Be especially careful of online interests who claim they cannot meet as they are tied up overseas.
- Get Advice. If you are concerned or have a funny feeling about an online interest, speak to someone you trust and open up to him or her. Speaking to a trusted family member or friend is a valuable way to get an objective opinion.
- Don’t Share Intimate Photos or Send Money. Intimate photos can be used later on extort money from you. And if you send money to someone you have never met in person and who professes to love you after meeting you a month earlier, you’ll probably never see the person or your money ever again.
What to Do if You’re Involved in a Romance Scam
If you find yourself in the unfortunate position of an online scam, make sure you do the following:
- Contact Your Bank. If you have sent money, contact your bank right away to advise them. Keep a record of the report and conversation.
- Report the Scam. Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
- Get Your Money Back. Professional fund recovery companies have the experience, tools and expertise to gather the necessary information and work with your bank to recover funds stolen in an online scam.
If you are the victim of an online romance scam, contact MyChargeBack. We are an American financial services firm specializing in complex, card-not-present dispute resolution. Working with over 800 banks worldwide, we have assisted clients on every continent recover millions of dollars in assets that they thought they lost for good.