Romance scam is as much heart-breaking as it is wallet breaking. Romantic scams are very personal and rarely reported. This makes the scam more difficult to stop as few scammers are confronted with their crimes. Scammers are becoming more professional, especially with the rising popularity of dating apps and social media websites. It has never been so easy to create an account, put a name, picture, an interesting bio and be available to thousands of users immediately.
How to recognize a Romantic Scam?
First of all, many people fall for a Romantic scam. In Australia alone more than 3 thousand people (Jan – Oct 2019) were scammed and lost more than A$24 million.
There are several ways to spot a romance scam and help yourself or your friend/family member
Check the photo’s: Romantic scammers are usually use pictures of models, naturally pretty people, soldiers. Men and women are both attracted by looks, especially when these beautiful people are interested in them. This is why it has to be first check: check the google images and describe the main picture (here is a quick tutorial on youtube.com) Sometimes you can find blog posts already, claiming the they were scammed.
Meet (online) in person: Romantic scammers will make up stories why they cannot meet the person. Most often excuse is that they are living / working / serving in military overseas. Usually scammers will try to avoid video calls, current-time pictures and if you do have a call, the voice might sound not what expected or might change during time. If they do not want to meet via video or in person, they are probably scammers.
Scammers are “easy”: Scammers initiate the conversation and do not look shy doing it. Scammers are “falling in love” very quickly, promising to make your fantasies come true.
Personal media: Scammers prefers to move to personal email, phone numbers or telegram messaging quickly, because they might be exposed on the dating apps or reported on social media. Quick tip: look for the scammers email address. If the email is abstract like firstname.lastname@example.org or different names and last name, this is a red flag.
Asking money: Lastly, and most importantly – money. Scammer eventually will ask for money, it can be sooner or later, and the amount usually increase by the time scammer spends contacting the person. The reasons for money: family problems, lost job or most common – coming to see you! Then the difficulties begin, from travel costs, visas, lost luggage, insurance and whatever the situation might present. Some romantic scammers are smarter, asking for expensive gifts (which are sold only for money).
Simple Romantic Scam Checks
If you are not sure the person you are dating is legit or a Romantic scam, we have the following additional tips:
Ask for proof: Encourage your date to describe the city or area where he or she lives, where like to go, especially if they are able to name less-known places (if the person states living nearby).
Ask for updated picture: If the person states living far away, then before any commitment, video-call, updated pictures or just a simple selfie would be a great step forward to determine whether it is a scam or not (however not final).
Fake Video calls: Messaging platforms like Google hangout, WhatsApp, Messenger and others have a video call feature. To have a video call with a person would clear all doubts about whether it is a scam or not. However, there are still ways to fake the video call through a third-party app. Be very cautious even having a video call.
Check online: As mentioned above, try to search for pictures, similar lines used and names. Scammers usually have multiple potential victims at the same time, and not to confuse they might use the same names. E-mail addresses can be googled as well, since this might be the only reference another victim can use.
What NOT to do after falling for a scam
Do NOT continue the communication with the scammer. If you realized that they are not who they pretended, cancel all the communications. Scammers will never admit their fault. They will simply deny it or not respond to your messages.
Do NOT try to locate the scammer yourself. This is for those who lost a heavy sum of money, and the anger might be significant, but it is not worth it.
What to do if you felt for a Romantic Scam?
It is important to stay calm. We have few more tips what to do in case you fell for a romantic scam.
Recover your money: Try to recover money by contacting your bank, credit card company or payment service provider.
Collect proof: Try to save all the details, conversations especially money transactions. This might come in handy while reporting to authorities.
Report the scammer: Secondly, try to report the scammers as much as possible, especially to the platform you were approached. Social media or dating sites have built an automatic report system that makes it easier to do it.
Report the scam to the authorities: This is more of a formal procedure rather than practical, but this might help your neighbour in the long term. Especially we at scamadviser.com encourage to report every scam to local authorities so they can gather the information to explore the opportunities to help victims.
For a more in-depth analysis we recommend an interview with a victim of romance scam
This article references Roger A. Grimes` article on romance scams.