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Romance Scams: 6 Tips to Prevent Financial Ruin

Valentine’s Day is here and love is in the air—or it’s online, if you’re one of the 60.5 million Americans expected to use online dating this year.

Online dating via websites and apps can be a wonderful and convenient way to make connections with people. With just a click or a tap, you can be introduced to dozens of people who are chosen as compatible for you based on your interests and preferences. And it works: According to Forbes, nearly 70% of people who met someone on a dating app said it led to a romantic, exclusive relationship.

However, as much as there are benefits of online dating, there are negatives as well, with one of the biggest risks being romance scams.

“Romance scammers tell all sorts of lies to steal your heart and money,” according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). In 2022, nearly 70,000 people reported a romance scam, with reported losses adding up to a staggering $1.3 billion—a median reported loss of $4,400 per victim.

Now you may think you’re someone who could never fall for such a con, but romance scammers are smooth operators in the way they mold their online identity to become your perfect match. And just as you’re getting swept off your feet and you feel like you trust them, they throw you off with an urgent request for money.

They may tell you they’re sick, hurt or in jail. They might claim to be an experienced cryptocurrency investor who will help you invest. Or they may tell you they’re sending you a package, and you’ll have to pay money for “customs.” But instead of your money being used for a valid reason, they pocket it for themselves. According to the FTC, these are the most common lies told by romance scammers:

  • I or someone close to me is sick, hurt, or in jail: 24%
  • I can teach you how to invest: 18%
  • I’m in the military far away: 18%
  • I need help with an important delivery: 18%
  • We’ve never met, but let’s talk about marriage: 12%
  • I’ve come into some money or gold: 7%
  • I’m on an oil rig or ship: 6%
  • You can trust me with your private pictures: 3%

So how can you tell if someone is a genuine love connection—or if they’re a romance scammer in disguise? Here are six signs you could be falling victim to an online romance scam:

  1. They’re too good to be true: Romance scammers will tell any lie to become your perfect match. They’ll often share all your same hobbies and interests, and they’ll tell you that they’re ready to settle down in a committed relationship. If someone seems too good to be true, they probably are.
  1. They won’t meet in person: Romance scammers often have excuses as to why they can’t meet in person. Many say they’re stationed at a faraway military base, or they’re living on an offshore oil rig. Others may agree to meet and then not show, with an excuse for standing you up.
  1. They avoid showing their face: Romance scammers often use someone else’s photos, so they will refuse to share candid selfies or get on a video chat. If you’re suspicious someone is a romance scammer, try a reverse image search of their profile pictures; if the photos are on someone else’s online profiles, it’s a scam.
  1. They ask for money for any reason: The largest aggregate reported dollar losses to romance scammers were in cryptocurrency (34%), followed by bank wire transfer or payment (27%), gift card (7%), payment app or service (3%), or other (29%). Remember that a legitimate love interest will never ask you to help—or invest—by sending cryptocurrency, giving gift card numbers, or by wiring funds.
  1. They ask for explicit photos: Beware of sextortion—a crime where scammers convince you to share explicit photos and then threaten to share them with your social media contacts if you don’t pay.
  1. You feel like something is off—or your friend/loved one is concerned: Trust your gut. If your feelings of intuition are telling you something is off with someone you’ve met online, it’s probably true. And if you have friends or loved ones who are worried, pay attention to their concerns. There are plenty of other fish in the sea to swipe right on!

Want more? Check out our blog, 9 Tips for Dating Later in Life.

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Bankers Life is committed to keeping you informed about ways to protect your financial security. For more information about keeping yourself safe, check out these 8 tips to keep your data safe from cybercriminals, these 7 ways to protect yourself against hackers, and this advice on how to keep your family safe on TikTok.