March 20, 2023

Online Romance Scams, and how to Spot them

Written by kevin-c

Online Safety

Looking for tips for avoiding romance scams? Let your friends at TextNow give you pointers on how to avoid getting scammed while dating online.

Here's a deeply unromantic statistic: According to the FTC, online seekers of love lost a whopping $200 million to romance scams a year. Being the target of any scam is terrible, but there's something a little extra horrible about preying on people's loneliness. So, what's an online dater to do?

What’s a romance scam?

Romance scams are a particularly nefarious scam, where the scammer poses as a legitimate romantic interest in order to trap the victim into a long-term scam. The scammer, after establishing a personal connection and trust with their target then, creates reasons why they need the victim to send them money. For example, they might pretend they would really like to meet in person, and pretend they can’t afford it, with the expectation the victim would send them money to travel.

The thing with this type of scam is it can happen anytime, not just over dating sites. You might get a weird message from a scammer over social media claiming to be an old acquaintance or friend of the family – anything to get you talking and involved emotionally with the scammer

There are some red flags to keep an eye out for:

  • Does the person use a profile pic that seems too attractive and flawless?

  • Are they moving quicker than you feel comfortable with? Going from "Hi" to "I love you" in a handful of messages?

  • Are there any weird inconsistencies with their profile, or their messages?

  • Are the messages vague and noticeably poorly written?

  • Are they (and this is a big one), are they telling you an elaborate story about why they need money, as a prelude to asking for money?

  • If you ignore or refuse their requests for money, do their messages get more desperate and insistent?

If you see one of these flags pop up while you’re chatting with someone online, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are up to no good. If they ask you for money, though, that should be a very strong warning.

It goes without saying you should never send money to a person you don't know in real life, no matter how much you like them. Often a scammer will ask you for a gift card (iTunes seems an especially popular ask) rather than outright asking for cash. Why? Gift cards are essentially untraceable - once someone uses the code that money is gone.

A new wrinkle appears!

Like the gift card angle, perpetrators of romance scams have taken to asking their victims to send them SIM cards, pre-activated. The idea here is the scammer can then use the card on a phone to bypass the security checks on SIM cards. For example, if the scammer lives outside the US, a pre-activated SIM card can be used by the scammer to skirt around bans from mobile networks and software. The scammer now has a perfectly legitimate SIM card they can use to continue scamming victims, making it even harder to catch them

One great trick to avoid romance scams

So, let's say you're talking a person who's tripping one or more red flags. How can you know for sure?

A very quick verification you can do is to use Google Image Search or TinEye , upload their profile pic and see what stuff shows up. A lot of scammers will simply steal a profile pic from a legitimate person, so if your image search brings up someone under an entirely different name, that's pretty much a bullseye.

Use these tips for avoiding romance scams and remember to keep yourself safe out there. And for further info, check out these other very informative links below for more.