According to the FBI, romance scams are on the rise. These scams occur when a criminal creates a phony online identity and gains the trust of the victim on an online dating app or social media site. These romance or sweetheart scams target both men and women, mostly between the ages of 40 and 70. Victims over age 70 are the ones who lose the most money to the scam. Cybersecurity experts have traced most of these scams to Nigeria, although the scammers can be based in several countries around the world, including the United States.
The criminals are experts at what they do. They seem genuine, caring, and flatter their victim. The con artists seek to escalate the relationship quickly, sometimes proposing marriage or arranging to meet the victim. The meetings never occur. They will begin asking for money, telling the victim that they have an urgent medical expense, or need the money for travel expenses to meet. Once the criminals have the money, they disappear. Remember: Never send money to someone you have never met in person. Be wary of what personal information you post online. Scammers are skilled at mining this information and using it to gain their victim’s trust. Contact authorities if the individual asks for money or bank account information. Better yet, avoid online dating!