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There are lots of different types of romance scams circulating, but, in general, they are all cons that involve the scammer pretending to have romantic feelings towards their victim. The aim is to lure in the intended mark to eventually persuade them to give or send money or gifts to the scammer. Now, these cons often begin on platforms such as Tinder and other dating sites.
Romance scams can have devastating consequences for those that have fallen victim to them. As well as losing money and/or possessions of value, the victim is usually left broken-hearted, feeling extremely vulnerable, and may have trouble forming a trusting relationship for a significant time. This type of scam is particularly cruel and can have long-term effects on the people who have found themselves entangled in one.
Here are the main types of romance scams that are currently circulating:
In this scenario, an individual using a dating site or app will be contacted or matched with a potential partner and get chatting with them. This person, however, is a scammer and will attempt to begin the process of getting close to their mark and appear to want to develop a relationship with them. Things could move quickly, and the victim may feel flattered and that they’ve met the perfect match they’ve been looking for.
The scammer will often push to meet quickly and may bombard their victim with messages declaring their feelings and plans for the future. At some point, however, the con artist will request money or a gift. They may appear extremely convincing in their request, using the emotional connection they’ve carefully crafted with their mark to persuade them to acquiesce to the request without becoming suspicious.
Once money or gifts have been given, the requests for more will come frequently until, typically, the victim will begin to realize what’s happening and questions the scammer. At this point, the con artist will usually either become aggressive or - more likely - when it becomes apparent that no more funds will be forthcoming - disappear into thin air.
The so-called ‘Pig Butchering’ scam is a relatively new con that originated in China in 2020: it combines a romance scam with an investment scam. The con unfolds like the ‘traditional’ romance scam as outlined above. However, once the scammer has successfully feigned romantic feelings for and secured a connection with their victim, they will request (or advise) their mark to invest in a fake or fraudulent business.
Statistics have shown that, since this scam emerged a few years ago, the majority of its victims have been well-educated women in their 20s and 30s; and that the average amount of money a victim loses to it is a staggering $98,000.
This is another widespread romance scam. In this case, a con artist will undertake research to create a convincing persona, uploading their details onto a dating site in the guise of a member of the military. The scammer will usually target an individual who they’ve discovered has shown support for or who has some connection to the military: they can find this information from reading profiles or by scouring relevant Facebook groups.
Once the scammer has identified a vulnerable target, the typical pattern will unfold: a relationship will be sought that escalates quickly. Within a short space of time, money or gift cards will be sought. When the victim asks to meet, the scammer will claim that they’re currently posted overseas.
This type of romance scam isn’t concerned with persuading a victim to directly part with their funds but, instead, is about identity theft. This con typically involves a victim (who is active on a dating site) being sent an email from an individual they’ve matched with. The mark will be invited to click on a link to view some photos of the person they’ve connected with.
Unfortunately, once this link is clicked on, the scammer can access their victim’s device and therefore harvest a multitude of personal details. These could include the victim’s date of birth, address, credit card number, and banking information and could be used to raid accounts or to take out a loan, for example, in the victim’s name.
With this romance scam, the victim that the scammer has targeted, and has given the impression of forming a close connection with, is persuaded to move illicit funds as a way to launder money. The con artist will send the victim money, phones, or valuable possessions and convince them to send these items elsewhere.
Steering clear of this type of scam is vital; victims may find themselves embroiled in a wide-ranging criminal network that could be both difficult and dangerous to extricate themselves from.
Romance scams come in a variety of shapes and sizes - we’ve listed the most common above. They are extremely prevalent, and scammers often target people using dating apps or websites.
It is estimated that around $300 million is lost every year to romance scams.
Different types of scams emerge regularly, so staying vigilant is vital.
In 2020, romance scams were the second-highest internet crime loss.
Statistically, women are more likely than men to be the victim of a romance scam.
Companies like Payback help to recover money lost to most types of romance scams by tracking down the stolen funds and confronting the con artists.
When dating online (or offline), remain mindful of the potential risks. Never give out personal information too quickly - ideally, once you’ve met in person at least a couple of times. Be wary of anyone or any offers that make that sound ‘too good to be true,’ and if a request for money or a gift is made, it’s usually best to walk away. Trust your instincts: if something seems ‘off’, then stop communication with the person. If appropriate, report the individual to the dating platform using the process outlined on its website.
Those who have fallen victim to a romance scam are usually left heartbroken and feeling vulnerable, as well as having to deal with the loss of an often significant amount of money. These feelings can make seeking help and restitution even harder - victims may even feel embarrassed or ashamed, making figuring out what to do next even harder.
Here at Payback, however, we have a team of experts who specialize in recovering money lost to romance scams and employ a variety of means to track down the scammers and reunite their victims with their stolen funds.
You’ll receive a caseworker who will be at your side throughout the process, providing support and keeping you updated. Why not fill in our Success Calculator now, and check out our testimonials and reviews to get an idea of the exemplary service you can expect when we take on your case?
If you’d like us to review your case to see if it’s one we believe we can win, then get in touch with us at your earliest convenience so that we can start the process of recovering your funds and getting you the justice you deserve.
Be mindful about what you post online that can be seen by members of the public: romance scammers can use social media to better target a mark and find out more about them that they’ll then use to their advantage.
Be wary of anyone on a dating site that quickly asks you to communicate directly rather than via the dating platform.
Go slowly, and don’t feel pressured to meet or impart information until you feel ready.
Research the person’s image and name to check if they’ve been used online elsewhere.
Never send money or gifts to anyone you’ve only interacted with online.
Never send any content or photos that could be used to extort you in the future.
View it as a red flag if the person says they want to meet you but always makes excuses or backs out at the last minute.
Unfortunately, yes. More money is lost annually to romance scams than any other FTC fraud category.
Dating websites and apps are commonly used, but scammers also set up fake profiles on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to lure in their victims. In the latter case, the scammers may send you a friend request, or an unsolicited message, possibly claiming that they know one of your other friends or went to the same school as you, to open up a line of communication.
This type of romance scam is where a con artist will convince the person they're in a ‘relationship’ with that they should get married as soon as possible so that a large inheritance can be accessed. If the victim agrees, then the scammer will attempt to persuade them to send a significant sum of money to cover their plane ticket and relocation costs.
Whilst it’s impossible to be sure from a profile alone if you’re contacted by or matched with a potential partner on a dating site, it’s vital to have a careful look at their profile. Is it complete, or is it sketchy? Be wary of partially completed profiles, those with just the basic sections completed, or that feature no photos, or images that are blurry or indistinct.
In most cases, the scammer will masquerade as someone who was brought up or now lives relatively close to you when, usually, they’re in another country altogether and may never have set foot anywhere near your location. So, asking where they grew up is helpful. A scammer is likely to give you a vague answer, so be sure to ask for particulars. If they say they grew up in the Chicago area, ask which street or suburb they lived in.
You could also ask what school or university they attended and their favorite restaurant in the area they claim to have previously lived.
Ideally, ask if you can have a video chat as soon as possible; this is one of the very best ways of checking whether someone is who they say they are.
The ‘Pig Butchery’ romance scam, which first surfaced in 2020, is becoming increasingly popular with con artists. This scam involves the mark being persuaded to invest in a fraudulent business proposition, often related to cryptocurrency.
In 2021 eight Nigerian men appeared in a court in South Africa, charged with undertaking a decade-long scam that involved more than one hundred American women. Over seven million dollars was stolen from the scammers' victims over this ten-year period.
If you found yourself entangled in a romance scam and lost money, as a result, there are still means to recover some or all of these funds.
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