Longer days, warmer nights, relaxed vibes, rooftop patios, pool gatherings, weddings and BBQs. It’s no wonder why the summer months show one of the larger spikes in online dating activity as singles look to share their summertime fun and seasonal events with someone special.  As easy as it may be to find someone on Match, Tinder or the other myriad of online dating sites/apps out there — experts warn that dreamy guy or gal may come with a hefty price tag.

According to the FBI, romance scams and similar confidence scams cost consumers more money than any other kind of internet fraud. In 2016, consumers lost a reported $230 million, but the actual loss is likely much higher since not all victims come forward. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported in February of 2018 that at any one time there can be an estimated 25,000 cons online.

In fact, anyone can be a target. Social media and online dating apps make it easy for strangers to learn your likes, hopes, passions and political views well before an introduction is made. So while you may have just stumbled onto a good-looking beau or belle who happens to share your love of J.K. Rowling novels, in reality, something much more ominous could be at play.

Here are six warning signs all daters should be on the look out for:

They take communication elsewhere.

Most scammers will start off with an online dating profile, but will only stick around long enough to be caught or reel in a victim. From there conversations likely move to a more secure form of communication like private email or text.

They’re experts at building trust.

They may offer up a lot of information about themselves (their goals, what they do, what they look for in a man or woman, etc.) as a way to gain your trust. Some scammers even invest months communicating back and forth, while seemingly asking nothing in return. This gives the online dater a false sense of security and the impression this is the onset of a real relationship.

They’re focused on money.

They may share heart wrenching stories that hint at financial problems. Or they may reveal they have a six-figure salary and use photos to demonstrate they live a wealthy or luxurious life. The reason? Appearance. When they eventually ask for money, you’re more likely to either buy into their situation or believe they’ll pay you back. They may also ask about your own income to determine if you’re worth their time.

They’re overly flattering.

It’s not uncommon for serial scammers to send small gifts and flowers or be overly flattering, often commenting on your sense of humor, wit or looks. They may even say the L-word right out of the gate.

Their profession/home situation prevents them from meeting.

The excuse of “moving” or “in the process of moving” or “constantly traveling for work” is a common catch-all. They can be used to foil attempts to meet or provide reasoning for casual financial transfers. According to the earlier BBB study, it is common for profiles to claim to be in the military. Not only is an enlisted soldier an honorable profession, it is easy to explain a fluid situation and a general lack of details.

They can’t escape disaster. 

Maybe weeks or months after the courtship began, something devastating happens. Their wallet was stolen abroad, their child is sick, their accounts have been frozen, they’re being held for ransom. The stories are endless, but they all have one thing in common — they need money ASAP. Whatever it is, never send money to someone you met online and don’t know personally.

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.

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. This is usually a sign they’re not from the same country.
  • Beware of “hard luck” stories that hint at money troubles (sick family member, dead spouse/parent, etc.).
  • 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.

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