Recent reports highlight the fact that online dating sites and apps are seeing massive increases in users. It seems that love is logging in online. Before you run off to create your dating profile, consider the possible risks.

According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of internet fraud. And that negative trend has been on the rise. In just five years, from 2018 to 2022, complaints and consumer losses have drastically increased, eventually hitting $27.6 billion in total losses in 2022.

But love doesn’t have to mean loss. Here’s five tips to avoid becoming a romance scam victim.

Take it slow

Like any encounter with a new person, it’s best to take your time. Scammers are there for one reason only; they want your money, preferably as fast as possible. As a result, they may send gifts and flatter you with compliments, and even say the “L” word early in the relationship. Take the time to ask a lot of questions and never give out personal information to someone online that could put your finances or identity at risk.

According to security software giant Norton, there are six red flags to look out for when first “meeting” someone online.

  • They claim to live far away.
  • Their profile seems too good to be true.
  • The relationship is moving fast.
  • They break promises to see you (in-person or virtual).
  • They ask for money.
  • They require specific payment methods (i.e., money order, wire, etc.).

Keep it public

Scammers will start their communication with their victims on dating sites and apps, but they will often attempt to steer the conversation elsewhere, such as private email or text. Avoid the trap by reiterating your preference to communicate on the site or app, and never give out financial information over phone or email.

Make it private

Similarly, romance scammers could use the information you’ve already shared on social media and dating sites like your address, place of work or phone number to gather additional data about you. They will use this information to gain your trust and trick you into giving out even more information than before. When it comes to social media, when in doubt, leave it out.

Watch for excuses

If the person you’ve been talking to online refuses to meet in person, it may be an indication that they’re a scammer. They may provide excuses such “moving” or “constantly traveling for work” but this is only to throw off suspicion. It’s best practice to schedule a FaceTime call or video chat with your online romance before the conversations go any further. If it’s been a few months and you have yet to meet the person, you should proceed with extreme caution.

Be wary of disaster

After gaining a person’s trust, scammers often present a story of a personal hardship or struggle to get the victim to send money. And nearly as often, victims fall for the bait out of a mixture of generosity and what they believed was a genuine connection. This is a mistake. You should never send money to someone online, particularly someone who you have never met in person.

Additional tips to prevent you from becoming a victim of romance scams:

  • Research the person’s photo/profile using online searches (like Google Image) to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
  • Look out for poor grammar, spelling, unusual expressions and flowery language that don’t coincide with the person they are pretending to be.
  • Ask a lot of questions and note any inconsistencies in current or past information they provided.
  • Never provide personal information, including account, passport, social security or credit card numbers.

If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop contact immediately. If you believe you are the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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