Often called ‘catfishing’, these scams can break not only the bank, but your heart too. Online dating can be a convenient way to meet new and interesting people, but scammers also use popular dating sites to find their next victims. These scams entice the target with a nice picture and a detailed profile. The scammer usually takes time to create a trusting relationship with the victim before asking them for money, claiming to have an emergency. Often the ‘catfish’ will want to quickly move contact offline but will always have an excuse for not meeting in person. These scams are becoming more common. Consumers across North America reported losing a combined $1 billion over the last three years to romance scams. According to one BBB study, there could be as many as 25,000 scammers online right now with potential victims. BBB suggests you look out for the following signs of catfishing:
•Too good to be true. Scammers offer up good-looking photos and tales of financial success. If they seem “too perfect,” your alarm bells should ring.
•Moving fast. A catfisher will begin speaking of a future together and tell you they love you quickly. They often say they’ve never felt this way before.
•Talk about trust. Catfishers will start manipulating you with talk about trust and how important it is. This will often be a first step to asking you for money.
•Doesn’t want to meet. Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone meeting because they say they are traveling, live overseas or are in the military.
•Suspect language. If the person you are communicating with claims to be from your home town but has poor spelling or grammar, uses overly flowery language, or uses phrases that don’t make sense, that’s a red flag.
•Hard luck stories. Before asking you for money, the scammer may hint at financial troubles like high medical bills, travel issues, a sick relative, or they may share a sad story from their past (death of parents or spouse, etc.).
BBB also has tips on how to avoid catfishing scams:
•Never send money or personal information. Never wire money or send iTunes Gift Card numbers to someone you haven’t met in person. Don’t give out personal information that could be used for identity theft.
•Ask specific questions about details given in a profile. A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.
•Do your research. Many scammers steal photos from the web to use in their profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup online to see if the photos on a profile are stolen from somewhere else.
If you become a victim of a romance scam, report it to BBB Scam Tracker, the FTC and the FBI.