a man is hides behind a cellphone and holds bouquet in front of a lady

Protect Your Heart and Your Wallet from Romance Scams

Valentine’s Day is a popular holiday for expressing love and affection, but it’s also a prime time for scammers looking to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. According to the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), romance scams, also known as confidence scams, are a growing problem in the United States. In September 2021, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) issued a warning that its Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) had received more than 1,800 complaints related to online romance scams with losses of over $133.4 million. Protect your heart and your wallet by learning how to recognize the red flags of romance scams and following these helpful tips to protect yourself from fraud. 

Scammers often target victims during holidays. It’s important to be vigilant and cautious when making online purchases or sharing personal information, especially around Valentine’s Day.

Common Romance Scam Strategies

  • False Love Relationships: Romance scammers will use emotional manipulation to lure you into a false love relationship, also known as Catfishing. They create fake online profiles posing as someone looking for love. They may even use real photos of other people on social media or dating apps and websites. They’ll send compliments, make you feel special, and express a strong interest in getting to know you. They gain your affection and trust and then tug at your heartstrings with fake sob stories about how they urgently need money for an emergency, hospital bills, or travel. Or they might ask for personal financial information or a loan, using the relationship as a cover for their true intentions.  
  • Fake Websites/Apps: With many consumers looking to buy Valentine’s Day gifts for their significant others, romance scammers may ask you to visit a fake website or app with the intent of stealing your personal information. They may send a link asking you to purchase a gift for them or to claim a gift for yourself. In another twist, they might say they’ve shipped you a valuable package, which requires you to send money for “customs” or some other made-up fee. It’s all a lie. You send the money, and the package never turns up.  

Recognize the Red Flags

Never send money or give personal information to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone. Be wary if an online love interest tries to:  

  • Chat with you using personal email, text, or phone immediately after meeting them online. 
  • Isolate you from friends and family or request inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you. 
  • Meet you in person, but then always comes up with an excuse as to why they can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious. 
  • Ask you to send them money or make a deposit to an account you don’t recognize. Scammers will ask you to send money to them a variety of ways including checks, providing banking information, pre-paid credit cards, gift cards, cryptocurrency, and wiring money. 
  • Set up a new bank account or take out a loan. 
  • Purchase items through a fraudulent website or app. 
  • Invest in a too good to be true investment, especially with digital assets like crypto. 
A credit card and a cellphone

Protect Your Heart and Your Wallet

Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you. Beware if your new online love interest seems too perfect. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Go slowly and ask lots of questions.

If you suspect a romance scam, protect your heart and your wallet by following these helpful tips:

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately. 
  • Block them on every platform they’ve used to communicate with you. This will keep them from seeing your profile or messaging you again. 
  • Talk to someone you trust. Are your friends or family concerned about your new love interest? 
  • Search online for the type of job the person has, plus the word “scammer.” For example, search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.” Have other people posted similar stories? 
  • Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. Is it associated with another name or details that don’t match up? These are signs of a scam. 
  • If you think you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, especially if it relates to a financial product or service, you are encouraged to file a complaint with the DFPI, or contact us with questions or issues at (866) 275-2677 or AskDFPI@dfpi.ca.gov.  

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Last updated: Feb 14, 2023 @ 9:31 am