Even after the television show Catfish revealed that those seeking romance on the internet are not always who they pretend to be, sweetheart scams persist as a type of fraud. Here are some of the prevalent warning signs of a sweetheart scam and what you could do to avoid falling prey to this type of fraud.
What is a Sweetheart Scam?
The FBI defines a sweetheart or romance scam as any fraud where a criminal uses a fictitious online identity to manipulate the victim into giving them cash or assets. In some cases, the scam artist may even gain access to the victim's bank accounts and steal directly from them. In 2019, sweetheart scams were the seventh most common type of fraud reported to the FBI and the third most costly to victims.1
Most successful scam artists are very skilled at what they do. They may seem genuine, loving and trustworthy. They may have plausible-sounding excuses for why they need money and why they cannot yet meet in person. Unfortunately, even dating websites that verify all participants by confirming their identities may be vulnerable to hosting scam artists on their platforms. Do not assume you are too clever to be targeted by or fall victim to a sweetheart scam.
How To Avoid a Sweetheart Scam
Sweetheart scams rarely survive a close investigation. Scam artists are not willing to meet their victims in person. If someone you are talking to online seems to always have an excuse not to see you in person, this is likely a sign that they are hiding something.
Some other tips to help keep you safe online include:
- Keep an eye on what you make public. Scammers may seize on innocuous information like the names of your pets, where you went to college, and other information to learn more about you and discover what might make you an easier target.
- Do not send nude photos or reveal information that could extort you.
- Do some background research into the person with whom you are communicating. Ask plenty of questions and use reverse-image searches to ensure the photos you get from the person have not come from someone else's social media account.
- Beware of anyone who seems too good to be true. If someone you chat with a few times professes strong feelings for you or encourages you to deactivate your dating apps and communicate only with them through text, this could be a sign that a fraudulent request for money is coming.
Above all, do not send money to anyone you do not meet in person. Do not assume that long phone conversations or text chats provide enough information to know the person. If you talk with someone who creates warning signs of fraud, stop communicating. If someone online takes advantage of you with such a sweetheart scam, you may want to file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.2
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual
All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however LPL Financial makes no representation as to its completeness or accuracy.
This article was prepared by WriterAccess.
LPL Tracking: 1-05217801