Over the years, the methods of dating have expanded. Meeting in person has largely transitioned into online dating via apps and social networking sites. Online dating creates an easy opportunity to carry out a scam, as it can be difficult to verify a person’s identity and intentions. It can be difficult to watch someone you care about get scammed, so the best thing you can do is help prevent it from happening in the first place.
How do Romance Scams Happen?
Romance scammers will typically set up a fake dating profile to get close to people and take advantage of their vulnerabilities. They will spend weeks or months building a relationship through texts, emails, or phone calls. They will often avoid video calls, but they will send stock photos and say it is them.
Once the relationship becomes established, the scammer will start asking for things from the victim. They will usually ask for money – usually, they will ask for small sums at the beginning. After that, they may make up an emergency and ask for a large sum of money through prepaid credit cards or wire transfers. In turn, the victim will believe that their significant other is in trouble and needs help right away. The scam ends when the victim figures it out or runs out of money.
Conduct a Background Check
If someone you know is thinking of entering into an online romance, you should run a background check on the person first. Using a background check service will provide information about their known aliases, criminal record, and general location. This is a good way to verify if the person is who they claim to be. If something questionable turns up, that is a good indication that they are lying about who they are or what they want. There are many third-party background check services available that can run a report for a fee.
When you hear that someone you care about is entering into the world of online dating, you should talk to them to address your concerns. Let them know that you support them but that you also worry about them falling for a scam. Moreover, you can explain what could potentially happen and make sure they are aware of all the signs. This is particularly important for older adults, who will be more susceptible to scams. If they do enter into a relationship, make sure that you are checking in on them frequently. Ask them how things are going and if they have any concerns that they might want a second opinion about.
Perform an Image Search
A scammer will most likely have a fake name and stock images in their profile. When a friend or family member tells you that they are in a relationship, you should ask to see a photo of their partner. Then, you can use this photo to perform a reverse-image search, such as through Google Images. If the photo pops up with a different name or correlates to unrelated content, it is likely a stolen image.
Encourage an In-Person Meeting
Scammers will avoid arranging in-person meetings because they do not want to give their identities away. When the relationship has progressed for several months with no sign of meeting, it is likely a sham. Encourage your friend or family member to meet the person face-to-face before getting attached. Of course, they are to arrange this with proper precautions, such as meeting in a public place and letting multiple people know where they are going to be. If the boyfriend/girlfriend does not appear, you can assume that they were just scammers hoping for money.