According to a recent Forbes article, Americans reportedly lost a staggering $1 billion to romance scammers in 2021, making it the worst year for such scams on record. The Federal Trade Commission said that many of the scammers in 2021 lured their victims into sending them cryptocurrency or tricked them with fake cryptocurrency advice.
Romance scams have increased exponentially during the pandemic, as social isolation has driven more people to seek out romance and companionship online on apps like Tinder. There’s even a new documentary about this called “The Tinder Swindler”. While many of the romance scams took place on dating apps, more than a third of victims reported that they were contacted through social media apps like Facebook or Instagram.
It’s important to understand that scammers are adept at gaining people’s trust, telling convincing lies and concocting plausible stories. Don’t get so caught up in the prospect of new love that you miss key warning signs.
Warning Signs to Watch Out For
- You’ve never met your romantic interest in person. When you try to arrange a meetup, they always have an excuse why they can’t.
- The photo of your romantic interest doesn’t look realistic, or it seems too good to be true.
- The relationship is moving very fast. They quickly profess their love for you.
- They try to isolate you from friends and family or tell you not to listen to them.
- They ask for inappropriate pictures or financial information that could be used against you.
- They ask you for money – and request specific forms of payment such as wire transfer, cryptocurrency, pre-loaded gift cards, or cash.
- They say they need the money for an urgent situation such as emergencies, hospital bills, a plane ticket, to pay off debts, etc. They are very persistent.
Ways to Protect Yourself
- Take it slow. If your love interest is overly complementary, flirtatious, or seems totally in love with you overnight, you should be wary.
- Do your research. Check the person’s photo and profile. Use the “search by image” feature on Google to see if the picture comes up elsewhere that doesn’t jive with the person’s story. Also search them by name. You can even do a search using their name plus “romance scammer” or by their job or story, such as “US Army scammer” etc. If they ask for money for a specific situation, Google that as well to see if it is a common scam. You may find other victims’ stories that sound very similar to your own.
- Don’t ever send money to someone you have never met in person.
- Don’t reveal too much about yourself. Don’t tell people who you are communicating with online details about your life like your income or savings, where you work, your last name, birthday, social security number, etc. And never send them an intimate photo that could be used against you.
What to Do if You Are Scammed
If you suspect you are being (or have been) scammed, immediately stop all communication with the suspected scammer. If you’ve sent any money via gift card, contact the company that issued the gift card, report the scam, and see if it is possible to get a refund.
Additionally, notify your bank if any financial information was compromised, change your password on your dating, social media and financial accounts, and notify the dating or social media site where you met the scammer. Hopefully these tips will help ensure that the “The Tinder Swindler” story doesn’t happen to you or anyone you know.
At Valley, we’re here to help protect and secure your financial well-being. If you believe you have been a victim of fraud or you’re unsure, please contact your Banking Team, reach out to Valley Customer Care at 800-522-4100, or connect with us at valley.com/security.