As online scammers continue to cash in on relationship scams, here is your guide to staying safe online this Valentine’s Day.
It’s common to meet people online (or even find love). The internet is helping people from all around the world make lifelong connections.
We wish those looking for love online this February 14 all the best, while reminding them to remain vigilant when it comes to online scams.
What is a romance scam?
The internet provides fraudsters around the world with the perfect platform for seeking innocent victims.
Online dating and relationship scams are a particularly upsetting technique that scammers use to deceive victims into sending them money, sharing personal information or unknowingly aiding criminal activity.
An online relationship or dating scam usually involves the scammer setting up a fake online profile to develop false intimacy with victims.
Usually, victims of romance scams are approached by a stranger on social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram, or online dating sites and apps.
The scammer will try to quickly move the conversation away from the social media site to online dating apps.
Scammers will go to great lengths to gain a victim’s trust and make their story sound credible, investing weeks, months, and sometimes even years, into building a relationship with the victim before requesting money or other personal information.
Different types of romance scam
Online relationship scams can take many various forms, making them all the more difficult to identify.
Once they feel they have gained the victim’s trust, scammers may do one of the following:
- Ask the victim to send them money, often by money transfer.
- Ask the victim to send them gifts.
- Ask the victim to give them access to their bank account or debit/credit card details.
- Ask the victim to provide them with their sensitive personal information.
- Trick the victim into participating in illegal activity such as money laundering
What are the common dating scam stories?
Many scammers use the same tried and tested stories and techniques to persuade trusting victims to send them money.
They will often wait until they’ve gained their victim’s trust and then invent a story or scenario that means they urgently require money.
Scammers frequently ask for money to cover the cost of:
- A plane ticket to visit the victim and then never show up.
- Getting a passport to visit the victim.
- Medical bills for them or a sick family member.
- Visa fees to join the victim in their country.
- Loss of employment.
- Lost valuables after a break-in or mugging.
- To pay their phone bill to continue speaking with the victim.
Please be cautious if your love interest claims to be part of America’s military personnel. Scammers commonly impersonate lonely soldiers because military personnel’s pictures are easily accessible online, and this persona can inspire trust and admiration from victims.
To avoid even more security threats, read our article to find out how to protect your identity online.
Signs that your love interest may be trying to scam you for money
Look out for the following signs of a romance scam to protect yourself:
- They profess their love for you within a very short timeframe.
- The information on their online profiles is not consistent with their story.
- They continuously make up excuses to avoid voice, video chatting or meeting up.
- They ask you to send them money.
- They tell you stories that seem far fetched, unbelievable, or overly dramatic.
If you’ve not yet seen the popular American reality television show ‘Catfish’, then watching a couple of episodes may help to familiarise you with the signs that the person you’re speaking to online may not be who they say they are.
How to avoid romance scams
If you’re engaging in online relationships, always remain vigilant to protect yourself from scammers.
Never transfer money to someone you haven’t met in person before
Money transfers are scammers preferred choice of payment as the money is sent overseas very quickly and the transfer usually cannot be cancelled once made.
Never agree to transfer money for someone else
Scammers sometimes invent reasons why they need you to transfer money to someone else for them; this is likely to be a money-laundering scam.
Never give out your personal or financial details
You should always protect your sensitive personal information from others, especially people you have never met in person. If sensitive data falls into the hands of the wrong people, it could be used to steal your money or your identity.
Perform a reverse image search online
You can perform a reverse image search on websites like Tineye.com. A reverse image search will show you where an image appears online and may help you to discover if the person you’re speaking to is the person in their pictures.
Don’t send intimate pictures to someone you’ve never met
Scammers may use these private pictures to blackmail you into doing what they want you to.
If you do plan on sending money, use a trusted money transfer service
Most established and reputable wire transfer services have security measures in place to protect their customers from scammers.
What to do if you’re a victim of a romance scam
Scammers usually use fake online identities, target victims living or working overseas, and request money via a money transfer, making it extremely difficult to trace them or get the money back.
How to report a romance scam?
Romance scammers can be persuasive, and if you are worried that you have fallen prey to a romance scam, you should report it immediately.
- Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) (United States)
- Action Fraud (United Kingdom)
- ScamWatch (Australia)
- Anti-Fraud Center (Canada)
Reporting a scam to specialist organisations may help to track the scammer down and create awareness, preventing other people from falling victim to the same scam.
Depending on where you live and the circumstances of the scam, you may also report it to the social media platform or online dating website on which you met the person, your bank, money transfer agent, or the local police.
How WorldRemit protects you from romance scams
At WorldRemit, we are committed to protecting our customers’ money and security when they use our service to send an online money transfer.
We employ a team of highly trained online security professionals and fraud specialists who ensure that procedures are in place to flag up suspicious activity that could mean that a customer is at risk of being scammed.
Two critical security measures that we have in place to protect customers from romance scams include:
Electronic Know Your Customer (E-KYC) checks
E-KYC is a verification process that all regulated financial companies must carry out to protect their customers and prevent their services being used for criminal activity.
We request that you inform us verbally as to the purpose of your money transfer, allowing us to identify any red flags that could indicate that you’re being scammed.
For your security, we don’t process transactions if:
- You’ve never met the person face to face.
- You’re sending funds on behalf of someone else.
- You’re sending money intended for your love interest, but someone else is a recipient (“She doesn’t have a bank account, so I’m sending it to her friend’s account”).
- The transaction is to pay for adult services.
We would like to wish all of our customers a Happy Valentine’s Day!