Love & Money: Online Dating Financial Scams

Dont let your search for love ruin your finances.

conceptual shot of a young adult woman who is met by a man coming out of her computer

Be careful what you wish (or type) for (Image: Thinkstock)

Valentine’s Day has come and gone. If Cupid hasn’t been returning your texts, it might be tempting to take the reins and go online to look for love. This can be a good way to meet new people, but without the proper precautions, you may not only be putting yourself in physical harm but also financial harm. What does the FBI call financial scams related to online dating? “Romance fraud.”

“Be careful who you trust,” says Ed Goodman, chief privacy officer for Identity Theft 911. “ID thieves target dating sites because people have their guard down. It’s easier to take advantage of someone when they’re vulnerable.” Here are tips from Goodman on staying safe online.

Don’t rely on a photo. Don’t let a photo fool you into making you feel that you’ve developed a deeper connection than you really have. Goodman notes that scammers often post photos of other people and claim that it’s them. Romancescams.org, a Website that educates consumers on romance fraud, has a database of photos that many scammers use.

Don’t share too much too soon. Don’t give your real name or any other identifying information too soon in the online dating process. Specifically, don’t put your address, phone number, or date of birth on your profile. Beware of anyone who asks you for information such as your mother’s maiden name or your pet’s name, as these answers are often used for security questions for online banking and other financial accounts.

Don’t give money. Many scams begin with a love interest in another country claiming that they want to come and visit you. Next, the scammer will ask for money so that he or she can make the trip. Then, they’ll claim that they got into a horrible accident or that they were mugged and need more money. These lies are told so the scammer can get their hands in your pocket.

Don’t accept money. Another financial scam involves your love interest sending a counterfeit check. He or she will then ask you to deposit the check and wire the money via Money Gram or Western Union overseas. According to FraudAid, a nonprofit fraud victim advocacy site, many overseas scammers use this tactic to engage in money laundering.

File a complaint. If you were the victim of romance fraud, you can file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as IC3.  This organization is a partnership between the National White Collar Crime Center, the Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Sheiresa Ngo is the multimedia content producer for consumer affairs at Black Enterprise.

For more on this topic, also read:

Protect Your Privacy

Electronic Pickpocketing: How Safe is Your Identity?

 
  • Too Gone

    Good advice. Also, don’t use IM’s such as Yahoo’s because there is a security exploit they can use when you overload the buffers on the IM’s in sending large files or receiving large files from you. And many of the scams originate from other countries. I discovered a scammer from another country by asking him a general question about something uniquely American. He failed the question and it was obvious he wasn’t born nor lived in California as he had claimed in his profile.

  • Good post, what I found also is that you need to string along the bits and pieces of the whole exercise ie. the messages, the photo, the times when they email etc. and then you can detect them fairly easily. Photos alone may not be enough to detect scammers but their behavior and what they say can also give it away very easily.

  • Ronnie

    Also, do not forget to use google. I was scammed a year ago. I lost $10k. When I sensed something was fishy, I found out too late that it was a scam when I google for more info.

    SO USE GOOGLE TO FIND OUT ABOUT THE PERSON, GOOGLE PHONE NUMBER, ETC.

    Lot of people have been scammed. Just google LOVE SCAM and you will see tons of cases.

  • Marisa

    It’s really appalling that scammers resort to romance website for profit. It makes much sense to always be cautious when talking to strangers online. It’s supposed to be one of the first things we learn about online socializing, and yet, as we grow older, we think we ‘know who to trust’ when in fact we don’t even know who we are talking to.

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