Leveraging Love: Online Dating Scams
by : Stan Jaslar
Everyone wants to find love, and in today’s high-tech world, more and more people are flocking to the internet to meet that special someone. Dating sites have popped up for every conceivable type of social group from farmers to the gluten intolerant, and social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram also allow you to connect with people you might never meet in your local coffee shop.
Unfortunately, sometimes the deployed soldier or model you’re talking to online is actually a scam artist. Every year, these scammers convince millions of people to send them money under false pretenses. To protect the customers of your financial institution, you should make sure they understand the threats of popular dating scams. Here’s a look at the essentials.
Signs of Trouble
There are many signs that a new online love interest may not be who they say they are. If you’re putting together anti-fraud materials for your customers, you may want to make sure they’re aware of these red flags:
- They never want to meet in person — When you’ve been talking to a potential love interest online for a while and they refuse to meet you in person, there may be an issue. Scammers keep you dangling on the hook by making one excuse after another about why they can’t meet. Sometimes they will actually arrange a time and place but then won’t show up.
- Their persona is based on being out of town — To avoid detection, these scammers often pretend to be a soldier who is deployed overseas or a businessperson who has to travel for a work. This ploy also explains why they can only speak with you sporadically.
- They ask you to send money —- Often with dating-based scams, the requests for money start out small, but this is the scammer’s way of seeing how susceptible the victim is to these requests. If the victim agrees to send $20, the scammer will inevitably ask for more and more. Some people have been fleeced out of millions of dollars.
The Main Targets
People from all walks of life have been targeted by internet love scams, but the vast majority of people who have lost money to these sorts of scams are women. In fact, women make up about 82% of the victims according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Unfortunately, many people are affected multiple times. Scammers make a “sucker list” and exchange names of previous victims.
They also prey on people who have recently had a recent negative life experience such as a divorce, death of a loved one, or a loss of job. Tragically, these people are nearly twice as likely to be scammed.
Who Are the Scammers?
Currently, the vast majority of romance scammers are from Africa, specifically from Nigeria and Ghana. The poor living conditions and high unemployment rate in these countries make this sort of criminal activity particularly enticing. But not all the scammers are people who plan to stay on a criminal path forever. A surprising number of scammers are Nigerian college students who use romance scams as a way to pay for their college education. In fact, it is so prevalent that it is an accepted way of life.
How Do Romance Scams Work?
The scammers set up phony profiles on social media platforms or dating sites, and then, they make contact with a likely victim. They may talk to dozens of victims at once, and they often work from a script. These scammers tend to profess love early in the relationship, and they also try to draw victims away from the social media or dating sites so the conversation can’t be tracked as easily.
In some cases, scam artists trick their “lovers” into sending them explicit photos or videos. Then, if the victim refuses to send money, the scammers turn to blackmail. They threaten to release the photos if they don’t receive payment.
Reporting Romance Scams
Unfortunately, very few people report these scams, because they are embarrassed to let people know that they’ve been fooled in such an intimate way. However, you should urge your customers to report these scams as well as any others. The more information the authorities have about these types of scams, the more they can do to stop them.
Educating your customers is often your first line of defense in fighting scams, but of course, you also need the right tools and software in place. To get help, contact us today. At SQN Banking, we make fraud protection easy for our clients.