Watch out for scammers pulling at your heartstrings
Millions of people of all ages use dating apps and sites every day to build romantic connections. But unfortunately, those looking for love are not the only ones online dating. Hackers and criminals also prowl these sites, looking to take advantage of users – by either stealing their money or using their personal information to commit identity theft.
The numbers are alarming. Americans have lost nearly a billion dollars and Canadians lost nearly $60M to romance scams in the past year, according to the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) and Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre data. Recent research from consumer cybersecurity company Aura found that adults 50–69 made up most victims of romance scams, losing nearly $180 million in the first three quarters of 2022 alone. Adults over age 70 had the highest median loss to these scams, indicating that while fewer people in this age group are dating online, those who do lost an average of $9,000 each — the most of any group, according to Federal Trade Commission data.
Here’s how it happens:
- Criminals create fake profiles on dating apps or social media to lure their targets.
Often, they also engage in “catfishing” and steal attractive photos from real people’s social media or profiles. The catfishers may use flirty messages or dramatic stories that play upon victims’ emotions and build trust. Some scammers pretend to be overseas doctors, developers, or military service members — which they use as an excuse for on-and-off communication.
- Once you’ve connected or matched, these scammers will quickly move the relationship forward, expressing their love.
- After they’ve gained your trust, they’ll make their ask.
They may demand personal details, gifts, money, suggest that you invest in cryptocurrency, send private photos or visit a web link set up to steal your information. They’ll create elaborate scenarios where they need your “help,” for example covering costs for a family member, medical treatments or to get them out of trouble.
- Throughout the “relationship,” they may find ways to get out of visiting you in person or appearing on video chat.
They might provide you with their phone number, but they will never be available when you call. They may even use an untraceable phone number, like a Google Voice number.
- They may steal your money or commit identity theft.
You probably will not be able to recover any money you sent them, and identity theft can take months to resolve in some cases.
Do not be afraid to cut off contact and block someone if you feel like something is off.
Ask yourself the following questions if you suspect it could be a scam:
- Is their profile “too perfect” (job, photos, etc)?
- Are they usually unavailable except via chat? Do they always claim to be traveling or overseas? If so, why are they trying to start a relationship with you?
- Are they trying to move the relationship forward quickly in terms of intimacy? Do they pressure you to do the same?
- Are they asking you for money, gifts, or financial “help” of any kind?
- Do they always have issues when it’s time to video chat or meet in person?
- Have they mentioned too-good-to-be-true investments opportunities (cryptocurrencies, inheritances, etc.)? Do they ask if you want to make a lot of money with no risk?
- Are they constantly dealing with emergencies and needing help paying their bills?
- Have they asked you very personal questions (address, school, type of car, birthday, maiden name, etc.) very quickly?
- Are they trying to get you to move the conversation to a different site, Signal or WhatsApp?
- Do they ask you to “prove” yourself (that you’re trustworthy or that you love them)?
- Do they seem pushy or argumentative if you start questioning them?
Already given someone sensitive information? Secure your online and financial accounts by changing your passwords, setting up a fraud alert with the credit monitoring agencies, and reporting the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at reportfraud.ftc.gov in the U.S. and to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre. Get help – monitoring your identity and finances can be stressful and time consuming — consider a solution like Aura.
If you sent a scammer money: Report the fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) in the U.S. or Canadian Anti-Fraud Center in Canada. You may be able to reverse wire transfers or track gift cards by contacting the company you sent them through. If you sent your credit card information, cancel your card and set up fraud alerts. Solutions like Aura’s make monitoring transactions and personal information easy and offer peace of mind.
If you think you may be a victim of identity theft or fraud: Look for the warning signs of identity theft. If you recognize any, follow these steps to secure your accounts and recover from identity theft. If you are in the U.S., report identity theft to the FTC at IdentityTheft.gov or if you are in Canada, report the incident to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (1-888-495-8501).
If you think you may become a victim, have already given out information or money, or have been a victim of fraud or identity theft in the past, we highly recommend getting help. Sign up for Aura’s all-in-one digital security solution. Aura protects you from identity theft, financial fraud, and viruses like malware. Plus, if the worst happens, you have access to 24/7 Fraud Resolution Specialists and are covered by a $1,000,000 insurance policy for eligible losses due to identity theft. If you are interested in learning more about identity monitoring and protection, visit: aura.com/febblog
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