THE Secret Service has urged smartphone owners to be wary of romance scams that can empty their bank accounts.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, scammers will be preying on social media and dating app users in the hopes of making money.
This is known as a romance scam, and every year they lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in losses.
WHAT ARE ROMANCE SCAMS?
Romance scams are usually initiated online and often prey on vulnerable people, the Secret Service notes on its webpage.
Scammers typically create fake online profiles and attempt to build fake emotional attachments.
These engagements can last months until a potential victim is comfortable sending them money.
Victims can be both men and women, the Secret Service explained, with many of them being older.
They also added that “those who may be struggling in a relationship and/or are emotionally vulnerable” are targets.
Even affluent and well-educated individuals have fallen victim to these types of scams.
Typically, scammers will do extensive research on potential victims before targeting them.
This includes looking through social media and dating sites for information about their lives and personalities.
“They are expert manipulators and use these open, personal posts against the victim, cultivating them over a long period of time,” the Secret Service said.
“Victims feel there is a real connection, romantic interest, and become invested in the online relationship.”
HOW TO STAY SAFE
There are several steps you can take to help you from falling victim to a romance scam.
First and foremost, you should never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
Be careful what information you share or make public as fraudsters can use that to target you.
If you develop a relationship online, always research the person’s photo and profile and ask a lot of questions.
Beware if you are asked for inappropriate photos or financial information as this is a major red flag.
It should also raise concern if the person fails to show up for multiple attempts to meet.