CORPUS CHRISTI, TX — Online dating and social media have made it easier than ever to meet new people. Unfortunately, it has also created an easy way for scammers to take advantage of those who may be looking for love.
Con artists run online romance scams by creating compelling backstories and full-fledged identities, then tricking unsuspecting victims into falling for someone who does not exist. They often use fake profiles on dating sites and social media – even using pictures from a real unsuspecting person.
In most cases, the scammer pretends to be in the military or doing business abroad. They create elaborate stories about who they are and why they cannot meet in person. Inevitably, they have some kind of emergency and ask their victim to send them a large amount of money.
As recently as this month, an elderly gentleman in Wimberley lost $100,000 to an online scammer posing as a romantic interest.
Once a victim realizes they have been defrauded and confronts the scammer, the deceiver will sometimes admit the ploy, but then go on to say that they actually fell in love during the scam. They will then use that ploy to continue getting money from the victim.
What are the best ways to prevent these scams from happening? According to the Better Business Bureau, watch for romance red flags that include:
- Fast movers who try very quickly to move initial conversations to email, a messenger app, or phone. They also begin professing their love quickly and begin speaking of a future together.
- Those who avoid meeting in person and always have an excuse about why an initial meeting must be postponed. If the fraudster claims to own or work for an overseas business, you can always call the U.S. Embassy in that country and ask them to verify the company and provide background for you.
- The use of fake photos and inauthentic text – both of which can be easily traced. If they seem too good-looking to be true, you can reverse-search an image and you may find that it is connected to other names on other sites. Many scammers are dealing with multiple victims at a time, so they will likely stick to a script. Search any unusual or suspicious phrases in a profile or email.
- Requests for money from someone you have never met. These con artists often pretend to be U.S. citizens working overseas or members of the armed services. The State Department recommends sending money through their OCS Trust, which requires recipients to provide a photo ID to collect money.
To learn more about online romance scams, visit www.bbb.org.