Just when you thought dating couldn’t be any more annoying.
Online dating scammers have taken nearly $1 billion from unsuspecting lonely hearts in the last three years, and they’re coming for more, according to the Better Business Bureau.
Reports to the FBI about online-dating scams have tripled in the last five years.
You can probably delete that half-true comment about guacamole now.
I know what you’re thinking; online dating is expensive enough, and now we have to worry about being scammed?
Don’t move to a convent just yet. There are ways to spot a romance scam and even get your money back if it happens to you.
How to Spot Online-Dating Scams
You’re first red flag is if they can’t meet you in person.
If someone says they’re abroad and can’t meet, you should tread carefully. If they continually make excuses about why they can’t meet, it’s best to move on.
Scammers will use excuses like memberships that are about to end to get your phone number or email address so they can communicate free from scam monitors. While even the best dating sites can miss scammers, they still have systems in place to block suspicious behavior, so don’t be fooled.
That’s how one woman lost over $50,000 in an online-dating scam. The 2.5-month relationship included over 10,000 text messages, 400 phone calls and zero first dates.
Do a Google image search for their profile pictures to see if they’ve been used anywhere else. Scammers will post well-groomed pictures with nice things in nice places. It makes you think they’re wealthy, so when they ask you for money, you trust they’ll pay you back.
If their speech reads like a bad Google translate, then it probably is a bad Google translate. And a sudden emergency is always a telltale sign of a scammer. Even if they don’t ask for money, scammers have guilted victims into giving to not-so-worthy causes.
What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
First, don’t be embarrassed.
In 2017, there were 28,000 complaints filed to the Federal Trade Commission regarding online-dating scams.
If you’ve given your banking information to anyone you believe may be a scammer, call your credit card company or bank and file a fraud victim statement with the three credit bureaus.
If you received any attachments from the scammer, update your computer’s anti-malware software and do a virus scan.
Money-transferring services are making every effort to protect victims of fraud. The BBB recommends reporting scams from as far back as 2004 to the FTC.
If you sent money through Western Union, you don’t even need the receipt. Just the date, amount and where it was sent will suffice. You may not get all your money back, but it’s definitely worth the effort.