Millions of people use online dating sites or social media to find that special someone. And, while plenty of stories end up in happily-ever-after, many more are at risk of serious hurt. Therefore, it’s crucial to recognize the red flags of what is known as a Sweetheart Scam. These scammers eagerly take advantage of anyone looking for companionship – fooling them with fake accounts and stories. Use this information to safeguard yourself from a sweetheart scam.
In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported losing $143 million to sweetheart scams. Scammers build trust with the victim through consistent messaging and quickly profess their love. But, they never offer to meet or speak outside of the messaging platform.
With the advent of social media, it’s necessary to safeguard yourself against dangerous people.
Here’s what you should look out for:
- Sweetheart scammer never wants to meet in person
- Often they are “traveling/living outside of the U.S.”
- They hint at financial troubles and often ask for money, personal info, or account numbers
- They lure victims off the dating site, to others where they may acquire money
Here are some lies scammers ask their targets to pay for:
- A plane ticket or other travel expenses
- For surgery or other medical expenses
- Customs fees to retrieve something
- Pay off gambling debts
- For travel visas or other travel documents
Scammers ask for payment through wiring money, reload cards, or gift cards because cash is accessed quickly and remains anonymous. They know these transactions are close to impossible to reverse.
If you find yourself in this kind of situation, notify your credit union immediately. While it may feel embarrassing, our priority is to safeguard you and your personal information. Additionally, cease communication with the scammer and report the connection to the FTC. As well, notify the website or app where you met the scammer. If you have sent money via gift cards or debit/credit cards, notify the company. Finally, file a report and request a refund.
Here’s a reminder on how to protect yourself against daily online threats.