The FBI is warning people this Valentine’s Day to be on the lookout for romance scams. Every year Americans lose nearly a billion dollars to Casanova con artists on dating apps and social media. The victims who are looking for love, surprisingly send money to people they’ve only met online.
It’s a scam that you may ask “why do people fall for that?”
“Here’s the number one thing that makes people susceptible to these attacks: it’s not stupidity, it’s loneliness,” says cyber security expert Ira Winkler with the company Cys.
“You have a person who seems too good to be true. Almost. Just true enough that there’s a hook. They establish a relationship with the person and speak to constantly, and love bombing and things like that.”
Love bombing is described as when one person in an online relationship quickly begins sending messages that they are in love. Messages may be flirty and romantic.
“And over a period of time,” Winkler explains, they somehow need money either to come to see them, for whatever purpose. Sometimes they send you money to establish the trust that they have their own money. But at the end of the day, they very much want access to your information and your bank account.”
The FBI says romance scams are successful, particularly with older Americans who have a lot of money and who are also lonely for human companionship.
Winkler says many of the scams begin on dating apps because the scammers know people using the apps are looking for a love connection.
“Things have happened on Facebook, Instagram, and over TikTok where people have established connections. It can happen anywhere,” said Winkler.
Here are a few warning signs that the person you’re talking to online is actually a scammer:
● They quickly begin expressing love or deep feelings
● They want to move the conversation off social media or the dating app to an anonymous
● They promise to meet IRL or in person but keep postponing or backing out.
● They ask for money for travel expenses.
● Attempt to isolate you from friends and family
● Requests inappropriate photos or financial information that can be used to extort you.
Winkler suggests doing a Google reverse image search on their profile photo as scammers will not use their own profile photo. He also strongly suggests never using the same profile photo on dating apps and sites that you use on Facebook or another social media site.
“Because that way somebody can do a reverse image surge on you and potentially find out information about where you are personally,” Winkler said. “Someone can do a reverse image search and find out theoretically where you live, where you work, who your friends are, who your relatives are, really really quickly.”
Romance scams can target people of all ages but older people are more susceptible because they may be more of a target. Scammers might search public Facebook profiles looking for older people whose relationship status is “single” figuring they may be a widow or widower who is both lonely and has a lot of money.
If you feel you are the victim of a romance scam, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint
Center by clicking here.