Online Dating Scams

How Do Online Dating Scams Work

Legal Assistant Criminal Law, Resources

Looking for love online has always been a dicey affair. In the unique times that we’re currently living in, more people are turning to online dating sites and social media in the hope of meeting that special someone.

Sadly, while there are genuine people signed up on these sites, many of them are riddled with scammers posing as eligible singles whose sole mission is to fleece them of hard-earned money.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), online dating scams accounted for more than $304 million in losses in 2020 alone, with that number expected to rise with each passing year.

The initial belief was that women were more susceptible to these online scams. On the contrary, the FTC scam report indicates that men, particularly those aged 50 and up, are getting increasingly duped.

If you’re looking for love online, you need to learn how to spot a scammer from the get-go to avoid getting more than just your heartbroken. Here’s what you need to know.

How Do Romance Scams Work?

Online scammers are quite sleek and sophisticated in their techniques. Forget about those old-school Nigerian prince scams that you would be able to spot a mile away. Dating scammers are patient – charming even.

They worm their way into your heart, often waiting several weeks, months, and in some cases, even years to win your trust.

They weave an elaborate web of realistic tales in a bid to get you to send gifts, money, or sensitive financial information like your credit card or bank account details.

That’s when they strike – when you’re at your most vulnerable. At the point when you genuinely believe that you’re in a relationship with a genuine person; someone who has your best interests at heart and would never take advantage of you; someone who you feel connected to on an emotional and spiritual level; someone you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with.

The genesis of this illusion is a fake profile on a dating site. Romance scammers painstakingly craft every aspect of their online persona to appear legit. Many of them often use fake photos to sell the illusion.

In other instances, they use popular social media sites like Facebook and Instagram to initiate contact with unsuspecting targets. It’s usually a game of numbers, so they send out hundreds of friend requests hoping that someone takes the bait.

How to Tell if Someone Is Scamming You Online

There are several red flags to look out for if you suspect someone might be trying to pull a fast one on you.

For instance, if you meet someone on a dating app and a few short contacts later, they’re already professing their love for you, that’s a definite warning sign. If they ask you to communicate with them outside the dating platform via email or chat, that’s a red flag as well.

The other thing to look out for is consistency. Their dating app profile or social media account should be consistent with what they tell you.

For instance, if the individual’s profile description in question states that they are university-educated, but their grammar and overall proficiency in English seems a little off, that’s another red flag.

Moreover, if every time you arrange to meet with them in person, they always seem to have some type of excuse for why they can’t travel on the agreed date, then you know you’re dealing with a scammer. Here are two of the most common online dating scams you need to watch out for.

Offshore Oil Rig Scams

Offshore Oil Rig Scams

While several people genuinely work on offshore oil rigs, the mention of this profession on an online dating app or website should set off your alarm bells. It doesn’t even have to be an oil rig per se.

It is usually any remote location that gives them a pretty solid excuse not to have a phone conversation, video call, or in-person meeting with you.

After a few weeks of communication, they’ll eventually ask you to wire cash to purchase a plane ticket to come and see you, to sort out a family emergency, or for any well-crafted fallacy. Those who don’t ask for cash may request gift cards instead.

Military Romance Scams

If you recently started talking to someone online who claims to be a member of the military, that’s another warning sign that you might have a scammer on your hands.

Victims who fall prey to military romance scams often believe that they play their role in supporting an individual who’s willing to put their life on the line for their country.

These scammers will often give fictitious, service-related stories to lure their victims into sending them money to purchase a secure phone-line, pay medical fees, process a marriage license, pay for transportation, etc.

What to Do If Scammed Online

You’ve purchased a gift card and sent it to a romance scammer, or you’ve wired funds to the account they provided you with. You realize shortly after that you’ve been duped. Now what? Who do you report scams to?

In the case of gift cards, you’ll need to contact the issuing company right away explaining that you’ve been scammed and ask if they can cancel the card and refund your money. Do the same with your bank if you transferred funds from your account that of the scammer.

Ensure that you also notify the dating app/website admin where you met the scammer using the report scam functionality.

You’ll often find it somewhere within their profile. Finally, you should also report scams to the FTC and have law enforcement authorities investigate the crime.

Punishment for Online Scamming

18 USC § 1343 of federal law covers wire fraud. It has now been generally understood that the statute covers all forms of cyber fraud perpetrated via the internet or through email. If convicted, online scammers face up to 20 years in federal prison.

Spot the Warning Signs Early On

Falling in love is a beautiful thing regardless of where you find your soulmate. Just make sure you keep your guard up and learn to spot the red flags early on.

Never send money to a stranger you met online, no matter how desperate their situation appears to be.

Think you may have fallen victim to a romance scam? Chat online with a Laws101 attorney today to get legal advice.