Love shouldn’t cost a thing. At least until you’re ready to spend some cash on a ring, house, kiddo or other commitment. Unfortunately for some, love costs big bucks and big emotions.
Those on the hunt for love can be blinded to the reality that they are being swindled by a faker, a con artist heartbreaker. With nearly 40 million Americans turning to online dating services and social media to find love (according to eHarmony), scammers are getting crafty at creating compelling backstories and full-fledged identities to entice victims into falling for a person who doesn’t exist.
This form of deception is known as “catfishing.” Sometimes a catfisher is simply a lonely person hiding behind a fake persona. But often it is the first step in a phishing scheme to steal personal information or a romance scam to trick you out of money. In some cases, victims have been tricked into moving illegal money from other scams (“money mule”), which is potentially a crime.
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.
Tips to Spot This Scam:
Too hot to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. Be honest with yourself about who would be genuinely interested. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.
In a hurry to get off the site. Catfishers will try very quickly to get you to move to communicating through email, messenger, or phone.
Moving fast. A catfisher will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.
Talk about trust. Catfishers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and how important it is. This will often be a first step to asking you for money.
Don’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting because they say they are traveling or live overseas or are in the military.
Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your home town but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.
Hard luck stories. Before moving on to asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles like heat being cut off or a stolen car or a sick relative, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).
Protect Yourself From this Scam:
- tineye.com or images.google.com to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere
else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to
see what adds up and what doesn’t.
To report a scam, go to BBB Scam Tracker.