Inform yourself about romance scams and why they are considered the worst type of fraud.
One way or another scams lead to financial loss. For the lucky few targets, fraud experience might have a low impact, while for many it is disastrous. Online schemes can ruin lives, families, and even the whole community of people. Nevertheless, there is one specific type of cons that is considered especially sinister – Romance Scams.
What Is a Romance Scam?
This is a special type of long con in which an individual is falsely led to believe they are in a meaningful online relationship. While the scammers are executing a well-calculated scheme, the target develops genuine emotions. Basically, crooks will try and tug at every heartstring to artificially produce affection, devotion, and love.
Once the crooks are sure the person is truly in love they start asking for money and gifts. Due to the manipulative nature of love fraud, victims of romance scams are highly pressured to provide money and they can lose from several thousand to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
How Do Romance Scams Work?
Online dating cons can come in all sorts of forms -romance scams on Instagram, Tinder fraud, fake dating sites, and the list goes on. However, the romance scam format is always the same at its core.
It all starts innocently enough. A target receives a message out of the blue from an attractive person. Of course, it is actually scammers posing as someone else. The swindler might play it simple and present themselves as an interested flirty stranger, or they may pose as an acquaintance from the distant past. The trick is to make the conversation rolling and to leave the door open for the next chat session.
The initial period of the con might even appear wholesome to an unsuspecting observer. The target is lavished with compliments, attention, and understanding. The scammer is not aggressive or imposing, they are available when needed, but they are not pushy. There is no mention of money, just affection, and kindness.
However, this is all an insidious and deliberate trap that is slowly pulling the victim in. The crooks employ well-proven romance scam tactics to prime the individual for giving away their money or doing criminal services. Eventually, the victim loses a lot of money and they are left heartbroken.
Social Engineering – Romance Scammer Tactics
Before you go thinking – How could someone fall in love with a stranger on the internet?! There are several things to consider. First of all, scammers go into this highly prepared and neatly organized. Also, they use romance scam scripts that are ready for any situation.
In case of Tinders scams or any romance fraud on social media, the con artists will meticulously set up and curate their profiles. They will steal photos from real-life people, and they will use them to construct a narrative that suits the scammers.
Additionally, fraudsters will make fake accounts and friends with each other, so it would seem that a fake social media profile appears to have a lot of followers. They would go as far as to leave comments under posts and make interactions that resemble authentic communication.
All of these are tricks and tactics to make the fake profile appear as genuine as possible. Consequently, when the scammers initiate an online chat with a potential target, the individual is led to believe they are communicating with a charming person, and not a crook who is set to rob them.
Romance Scam Stories behind the Fake Profile
The old adage goes – “you’ll catch more flies with honey”, but in the case of romance scammers sap story works best. The fraudsters commonly construe stories that would provoke sympathy.
As a result, male romance scammers present themselves as single-parent widowers. On the other hand, female romance fraudsters tend to lie about supporting their sickly family members. Of course, these stories are easily adjustable, as long as the target gets moved easier.
Romance Scam – Military Officer
Online dating con artists will profess their burning love and passion, but this leads to an obvious problem. People who are deeply in love naturally want to spend time together in real life. However, fraudsters need the whole scheme to stay in cyberspace, as meeting in real life would obviously discredit the whole operation.
Because of this, swindlers need to think of believable reasons why they can’t meet in person. This is why their fake profiles use professions that require people to be stuck in a foreign country. So romance scammer stories usually include oil rig technicians, and doctors working in Africa, but the most popular one is – soldiers stationed abroad.
The mask of a military man is perfect for male romance scammers. They aren’t allowed to leave their outpost, and they need to be in shape, so they tend to be handsome, but most importantly – they can think of a sappy story. A romance scammer military man is usually disillusioned with the war. They are hopeless romantics who were forced into military life and they are waiting for a kind soul to help them out.
Romance Scammer Phrases – The Language of Fraud
It’s important to understand that a single online dating fraudster can run several schemes simultaneously. Managing so many different internet romance scams can be quite demanding, so swindlers find a way to maximize their efficiency with minimum effort.
They need to show affection and appreciation towards their victims, but they need to express this through generic sentiments. Meaning they have to use the same seduction technique for various individuals. Especially during the first phase of the scam, the swindler just needs to send small signs of feelings and infatuation which don’t have to be specific. Basically, the dating scammer format message is always the same.
Online dating fraudsters always use postcard phrases like – miss you, thinking of you, I wish you were by my side, you are amazing, you are the best, you are my soulmate, etc. Similarly, scammers rarely use real names, but they address their targets as babe, honey, darling, sugar, my love, and so on.
Dating Scam Format: Start Small – Go Big
Since the first phase of a romance scam is seduction and priming the victim extortion, there is no mention of money. Nevertheless, money requests are inevitable. When the scammers feel confident enough they start asking for money, gifts, and even favors.
At first, the requests are small and reasonable. They are usually something a victim doesn’t perceive as a huge dent in their budget. Commonly, the first-time swindlers extort money, it is usually arranged to seem like it was the victim’s idea to offer money. Likewise, the fraudsters assure the victim they would eventually pay them back.
The first monetary gift is a breaking point of the con because once the victim agrees to send money, they are ready to do it again. From then on, swindlers will think of scenarios and situations for which they would need additional money.
Commonly the scammers will think of new obstacles which prevent the imaginary lover from traveling to the victim’s location. They would ask for money to resolve the issue, and they will finally be able to meet. If the victim sends more money, a new problem will arise.
Scammers will ask for more and more money from their victims as long as the victim is willing to give them. Consequently, they employ more and more stories and tricks to make their request believable or even necessary. Romance scam victims start out giving away a couple of hundred dollars, and ultimately they lose thousands or even hundreds of thousands.
Romance Scam Money Mule
If losing thousands of dollars because of a lying scammer seems bad enough it can get worse. Very rarely romance swindlers work alone, more often there is an entire criminal network behind them. For this reason, online dating fraudsters sometimes have problems transferring extorted money, or they need to launder it.
As a solution, crooks manipulate their romance scam victims not just to extort funds but to make them do favors. A target might accept to resend packages or physically transfer various parcels across borders. Since the content of these packages is often money, this way targets to act as money mules.
It’s important to note that as transporters for crooks, victims become accessories to criminal activities and can be arrested and prosecuted. Unfortunately, there are many cases of unsuspecting decent people having been arrested because they were carrying money, drugs, or firearms over borders, thinking they were doing a favor for a loved one.
How do you avoid being scammed? The red flags to search out for
In the case of many types of fraud, prevention is the best way to keep your funds and your mental health safe. That’s why it’s crucial to recognize the romance scam signs as soon as possible. If you know how to spot a romance scam in advance you’ll avoid getting entangled in the financially and emotionally draining trap.
Of course, you shouldn’t go through life being paranoid about any stranger that pays you a compliment. However, practicing a bit of caution can get you a long way. After all, if someone is truly interested in you, they wouldn’t mind several extra questions. Check the following list to see how to identify romance scams.
1. Do a reverse image search
Romance scammer photos are often stolen from the profile pictures of other people. What’s more, fraudsters tend to copy the same pictures. Meaning, if you find the photo of your online lover under another name, chances are it’s a scammer.
2. Ask questions about the location they are supposedly at
Don’t do it openly. Try to pass it as chit-chat. How was the weather this week? What is the location like? What are people like? Questions like these can often catch the fraudster in a lie because they might not know these details which you can easily check with a google search.
3. A perfect stranger from another continent.
Be careful if the potential love interest is a perfect stranger from another continent.
Different Types of Romance Scams
At their core internet romance scams are all the same. A fraudster manipulates a target to think they are in a genuine online relationship in order to extort money from them. However, quite often it can make a difference on which platform the communication has started. This is how many people differentiate them and we provide you with a romance scam list:
1. Tinder Scams
It seems logical that scammers use dating apps to swindle their targets. After all, people on it are looking for romance. However, though it is less conspicuous to approach strangers on Tinder, it is also more difficult to keep the scheme running as people on Tinder want to meet up quickly.
2. Instagram Romance Scams
When it comes to dating fraud this type is most widespread mainly because Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms. Swindlers make believable profiles with many followers and carefully curated photos and information. So once they DM their target they seem like real people. It’s important to note that younger people are more likely to fall for dating fraud on this platform.
3. Facebook Dating Scam
This type of internet love scheme has the same MO as the Instagram scam. However, the main difference is that the older generations tend to have Facebook. This means that they are more likely to fall victim to romance scammers. Since this age group has more funds, financial losses from romance scams on Facebook are larger.
4.LinkedIn Romance Scam
Many users of LinkedIn expect communication on this platform to be businesslike and formal. Meaning when somebody sends them a message, they don’t have major suspicions they might get scammed. Crooks abuse this and pose as legitimate working professionals, and they slowly shift the topic to personal conversation and topics. If the target bites the bait they suggest they continue chatting over apps.
5. Whatsapp Romance Scams
Fraudsters will send a message either “by accident”, or by posing as an acquaintance. Like any other romance scam contact, this is all a trick to start a conversation. With Whatsapp, scammers don’t have to worry about creating fake profiles. Furthermore, due to the nature of chat apps, this way fraudsters can create a more frequent and intimate conversation which in turn entraps people more easily.