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Romance Scam Warning

Everyone wants to share Valentine’s Day with someone special, and online dating sites put hundreds of potential partners at your fingertips. Hoping to connect with you for their own gain, scammers use these same dating websites as well as social media to establish relationships and defraud the lovelorn. And they are doing that at a dizzying rate according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) which reports that Massachusetts residents lost approximately $8 million to romance scams last year.

A romance, or confidence, scam occurs when a fraudster creates a fake online identity to build their victim’s trust under the impression of a romantic relationship. After developing this relationship, usually with multiple individuals online, the scammer is able to manipulate their target into providing personal information to steal their identity or to ask for money.

You can protect your wallet as well as your heart if you know the signs to look for to avoid being fooled by a scammer. The most important thing to remember is to never send money or gift cards to anyone you have not met before—that ask is a sign of a scam. We’ve compiled some additional tips to keep you safe while “swiping right” this month.

Red flags when interacting with a potential romance scammer:

  • Claiming to live, or work, out of the country. If your new friend claims to be a military personnel stationed overseas, an oil rig worker, or a doctor with an international organization, chances are you’ve encountered an imposter. Occupations outside of your local area make it harder to verify someone’s identity.
  • Professing love too quickly. Swindlers often say “I love you” or propose marriage days or weeks after initial contact. These con artists prey on emotional vulnerability to obtain personal information.
  • Requesting compromising photos or videos. After starting a relationship and exchanging dating profile photos, your online crush may quickly ask for inappropriate photos or videos. He or she may be trying to start a file for future manipulation or blackmail purposes.
  • Asking for money, gift cards, or other presents. Scammers may ask you to wire money, send electronic gift cards, or make other difficult-to-trace payments. These requests are usually accompanied by a plea to help them pay bills, get out of trouble, or travel to visit you. Do not send money, gifts, or other items to anyone you meet online.

In addition to looking out for the above red flags, you can perform your own due diligence. Research the professional or job details the person has provided and beware of positions out of your state or outside of the United States. Use Google‘s reverse image search to see if someone’s photos are located elsewhere online or are attached to profiles with details that don’t match. This is a sign of identity theft.

If you accidentally fall for a scam, stop communication and report the fraud. File a report with your local police department, the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and the dating service. If you sent money or gift cards, make sure you keep records of your messages (text, email, on the dating app, etc.), so that the police or FBI can investigate and try to track the scammer.

 Report a romance scam:

View the FTC’s informational video or the FBI’s victim story for more details on romance scams.

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