While most people think it could never happen to them, Americans lost a record $201 million to scammers last year, and that number is skyrocketing in 2020 due to loneliness and isolation.
SocialCatfish.com recently released a report on Catfishing During Coronavirus using the most recent data from the FBI, and exclusive interviews with Nigerian romance scammers and victims.
Here are 5 signs your COVID crush is catfishing you and how to avoid becoming a victim:
Cannot meet because of COVID-19: The hallmark of a catfish scammer is to come up with excuses why they cannot meet, such as pretending to be in the military overseas. The pandemic gives them a built-in excuse, which is why they are out in droves in 2020.
How to avoid: Rule No. 1 is that if your online flame refused to meet in-person after a reasonable amount of time, you are more than likely being scammed.
Needs money for a COVID emergency: One of the new wrinkles to the romance scammer game, is to ask for money because they have caught COVID-19 and need financial help for treatment.
How to avoid: While it is normal to want to help if you think someone you have grown fond of is sick, it is critically important to never give money to anyone unless you have met them. If they are indeed in a pinch, they have family and friends who can bail them out.
Scammers using non-romantic platforms: A record 26.6 million people are online dating in 2020 and this offers scammers more targets than ever before. However, people have their guard up on dating sites. As a result, scammers are increasingly contacting people on non-romantic sites such as LinkedIn.
How to avoid: The world is increasingly global, mobile, and social with a person having more touchpoints than ever before. Scammers have gotten more sophisticated and are approaching people in unlikely places. It is important to beware of online scammers regardless of the type of platform you are on.
Pushing love quickly during pandemic: In arguably the loneliest and most depressing year on record, scammers are pushing victims to fall in love very quickly by citing the pandemic and saying life is short. You may think it can’t happen to you, but these are seasoned professionals, and they know just what to say. Be careful if someone confesses their love for you and demands the same in return right away.
How to avoid: It is important to take things slow. If you like someone online, do not let them pressure you into falling in love right away. Once you do that, they begin their elaborate, yet plausible, reasons why you need to send them money.
They can’t video chat: The oldest excuse in the book… they cannot video chat with you because their video camera is supposedly “broken” or they do not have the best access to Wi-Fi. During the pandemic, they are claiming financial troubles are keeping them from fixing it which sounds reasonable. The real reason they do not want to video chat is because the pictures of “them” are stolen and the second you have a live video chat, the scam would be over.
How to avoid: As we approach the year 2021, there is no excuse for not being able to video chat. If they don’t have a computer, or a phone, would you want to date them anyway?
The pandemic created a perfect storm for romance scammers where increased loneliness married with believable COVID-related excuses. The tips above will help you avoid being their next victim.
If you think you have been contacted by a scammer, report it to the FTC.