Scammers fake online dating profiles using photos or other people to lure their victims. Once connected, the scammers often say they are from the U.S., but are temporarily traveling or working overseas. The scammers quickly profess their love and tug at the victim’s emotions with fake stories and their need for money. The victims often send the scammers money or provide online banking login credentials. In fact, more than 12,500 complaints related to the romance scam with losses totaling $203 million were reported in 2015, per the FBI.
Other romance scam variations include:
- Victims are duped into providing online banking login credentials to the scammers under the guise the scammers do not have access to financial services in the foreign country in which they are traveling or working. The scammer logs into the account and uses the account-to-account/external transfer feature to initiate ACH debits against accounts at other institutions pulling funds into the victim’s account for deposit. The victim is instructed to send the funds to the scammer by Western Union or MoneyGram. The ACH debits are subsequently returned to the credit union as unauthorized up to 60 days later.
- The scammer logs into the victim’s account and requests mobile deposit service. Once the account is set up for mobile deposit, the scammer transmits images of fraudulent checks for deposit to the victim’s account. Again, the victim is instructed to send the funds to the scammer by Western Union or MoneyGram. The checks are subsequently returned unpaid.
Follow these specific safeguards for online dating:
- Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
- Go slow, and ask lots of questions.
- Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
- Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
- Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
- Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.