If you or someone you know has ever fallen victim to an online romance scam, you may be interested in joining AARP Wyoming’s TeleTown Hall at 10 a.m. on May 22.
The May 22 call will be with online romance scam survivor, Kate Kleinert, who will tell her story about getting victimized by an online scammer. You’ll have a chance to ask questions and share your stories.
AARP Wyoming will start calling out to selected AARP members around 9:55 a.m. If you do not get a call and wish to join the call, simply dial 833-380-0685.
Kleinert fell victim to a romance scam and now considers herself a warrior in educating others against the romance scam. She is a spokesperson for AARP, sharing her experiences across the country with both members, as well as the US Senate, and has been interviewed by a number of television stations, and newspapers on her experiences.
What is an online romance scam?
AARP Wyoming also wants to remind you that while many people meet friends and potential love interests on social media, game apps, and online dating sites, it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they say they are and be aware of how advanced these scams have gotten.
The online romance scam typically works something like this: You post a dating profile and up pops a promising match — good-looking, smart, funny and personable. Supposed suitors might also reach out on social media; more than a third of people who lost money to a romance scam in 2021 reported that it started on Facebook or Instagram, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
This potential mate claims to live in another part of the country or to be abroad for business or a military deployment. But he or she seems smitten and eager to get to know you better, and suggests you move your relationship to a private channel like email or a chat app.
Over weeks or months, you feel yourself growing closer. You make plans to meet in person, but for your new love something always comes up. Then you get an urgent request. There’s an emergency (a medical problem, perhaps, or a business crisis) and your online companion needs you to send money fast, usually via gift cards, prepaid debit cards, cryptocurrency, or a bank or wire transfer. They’ll promise to pay it back, but that will never happen. Instead, they will keep asking for more until you realize it’s a scam and cut them off.
Scammers’ Favorite Lies (in order of reports to the FTC)
Here are a number of lies or reasons why scammers using the online romance scam will give when they cannot meet in person:
- I’m hurt, sick or in jail.
- I can teach you how to invest your money and get rich like me.
- I’m in the military far away.
- I need help with an important delivery, or to send money.
- We’ve never met, but let’s talk about marriage.
- I’ve come into some money or gold.
- I’m on an oil rig or ship.
- You can trust me with your private pictures.
Tips for avoiding online romance scams
- When you’re engaged with a new acquaintance online, don’t reveal your last name, address, workplace or other personal information. If you talk by phone, turn off your phone’s location settings.
- If you use dating sites or apps, don’t depend on them to protect you. Read the terms of service. Typically, the company is not responsible for vetting users’ identities or for what those users say or do.
- Lastly, don’t send money – especially not via wire transfer, gift card, Peer to Peer payment apps, or cryptocurrency.
- Other telltale signs of an online relationship scam include when the individual:
- Wants to leave the site immediately and use personal email or instant messaging to communicate with you
- Professes love too quickly
- Claims to be from the U.S., but is traveling or working overseas
- Plans to visit, but cancels at the last minute because of a traumatic event or a business deal gone sour
- Asks for money for a variety of reasons (travel, medical emergencies, hotel bills, hospital bills for child or other relative, visas or other official documents, losses from a financial setback)