Romance cons are big business, costing an average loss of more than $10,000 per victim in the U.S. Scammers know how to make a connection, tailoring their sweet talk to their victim’s responses.
How does it work?
You think you’ve found your perfect partner online. Once they’ve gained your trust, they ask for money or your personal information — leaving you with an empty bank account, and a broken heart.
Sweetheart scams can happen on a dating site or via “catfishing” on social media, where Internet predators fabricate elaborate online identities to trick people into emotional/romantic relationships over a long period of time. See the story of a San Jose woman who was duped out of $500,000 in one such online scam.
What are the signs?
- First comes instalove: Your new friend immediately moves the conversation to email or instant messaging — and just as quickly falls in love.
- Long distance romance: They say they’re from your town, but are currently out of the country. Emergencies keep you apart when making plans to meet in person.
- Money, honey: Then come the asks for help with travel fees; a child or other relative’s hospital bills; expenses while a big business deal comes through; or recovery from a temporary setback.
How do I protect myself?
- Do some digging, including an image search of the profile photo used on the dating site, and consider a background check if you aren’t finding any information.
- Don’t mix friends and finance. Do not give credit card or financial account details, or personal identifying information (e.g., Social Security number) to anyone you don’t know and trust.
What should I do if I’m a victim?
- Break off contact immediately.
- Do not send any more money.
- Report to:
This is a message from AARP Washington and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office. If you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft or fraud, you can contact the AARP Foundation Fraud Fighter Center at 1-800-646-2283 for help