Online dating is on the rise and scammers are finding new ways to trick those who are looking for love. These con artists are usually looking for someone to send them money after establishing a relationship on a dating site, app, or chat room. If you’re looking for love and want to stay safe, we have a few tips to help you identify and avoid an online romance scam, as well as information for what to do if you mistakenly sent money to a scammer.

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What is a romance scam?
Romance scams take place when a scammer creates a fake online identity to gain a victim’s liking and trust. The criminal will use this false relationship built on affection to manipulate and even steal from their victims.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), romance scams reached a record $304 million in losses in 2020. That’s up by 50% from 2019. Scammers are getting more creative as they build trust with their targets, so it’s important to identify any potential red flags online.

In addition to creating a fake profile, many scammers will elaborate lies about where they live, who they work for, and even what they look like. Once a rapport is built with their targets, scammers could ask for money to pay for medical bills, family hardship, or for a plane ticket or other travel expenses. Some will even convince their target enough to send them lavish gifts in the form of cash or valuable items without ever revealing their true identity.

Avoiding a scam
If a love interest asks for money, they may ask you to send it in a form of a gift card, online money transfer, or cryptocurrency. A simple rule to follow when dating online: Never send money or gifts to someone that you have not met in person.

Some easy ways to spot a fake profile is by analyzing the user’s pictures, or lack thereof. Having one or two photos may be a sign that the scammer is withholding information, as well as posting pictures that look too perfect, such as a stock photo. You can always do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to see if it’s connected to any other names or profiles online.

If you are engaging in conversation with a potential scammer, look for signs such as not wanting to share pictures or information about themselves, nonsensical messages, or being too forward or flirty. Never share your personal information including your last name, location, or place of employment, as scammers may use this against you.

Reporting a scam
If you suspect that your sweetheart has malicious intentions, make sure to report them to the dating site or app that you are using. If you suspect that you have mistakenly sent money to a scammer, contact your bank or the company that you used to send the money with right away. Make sure to also report your experience to the FTC.

Next steps
Love may make one blind, but don’t let it trap you in a potential romance scam. Protect you and those you know looking for a relationship online with these tips. You can find more information about romance scams on the FTC website.

If you are a victim of fraud, or if you detect suspicious or unauthorized transactions on your account, it is important to contact Arvest immediately at (866) 952-9523.