Dating online can be complicated, even more so when you run the risk of getting tricked out of money or your personal information. That’s a risk the Federal Trade Commission wants the LGBTQ+ community to be aware of this Pride Month.
The FTC warns that these scams threaten to publicly share messages and photos from LGBTQ+ people if they don’t send cash.
“It’s unfortunate that people take the time to try to scam other people,” said Ire Cervantes, who had a friend targeted by one of these fake romances. “To extort them and get money and all that stuff, it’s really unfair and it’s sad after some people out there that can be easily taken advantage of.”
Here’s how it works. The FTC says these scams can take time in order to develop a connection. They might ask for photographs and encourage you to share personal messages and information. Then they threaten to send the images and messages to friends, family, or co-workers, if you don’t pay up.
“It actually happened to a very close friend of mine,” said Cervantes. “They got approached via social media. The main focus was a romance and then for some strange reason money got involved and my friend had to give out his personal information.”
Cervantes said his friend lost thousands of dollars. It’s not an uncommon story either, but the FTC has warned that often these fake romances go unreported, and because people don’t know about them, more people are at risk of falling for the same scam. That’s why people are encouraged to not move too quickly.
“If you don’t know the person, don’t give out your information,” said Cervantes. “If the profile seems suspicious it’s probably suspicious for a reason. Trust your instinct and just basically be alert and be aware because the last thing you want is to go through something like that.”
If you or someone you know is targeted by an online scam, report it to the FBI here or the FTC here.