You know February is around the corner when your first romance scam of the year arrives. Like florist reminders and chocolatier ads, these internet exploits have become the internet’s herald of early spring.
Romance scams are confidence tricks leveraging the victim’s desire for a relationship to achieve their goals – which typically include at least one or more of these:
- Getting your money – Once the scammer has bonded with you or buttered you up, they:
- May directly ask for a loan, ask you to cover a debt, ask you to donate to a charity they work for; or ask you to cash a check/money order (it WILL bounce, and you WILL be out the money), or to move in with you so they can be a freeloader.
- May indirectly exploit you by collecting enough of your information to steal your identity; or gaining access to your home and important documents/credit cards;
- Gaining sexual services – this may be willingly from you (and something you’re looking for as well at which point it isn’t a scam), by force from you, or, if you have minors in your care, the real goal may be to exploit the child/children.
- Enlisting your unwitting help in a larger crime – like accepting, forwarding, or sending packages or money for them; or getting you to commit financial fraud on their behalf, etc. Some victims even knowingly abet in these crimes out of their need for the attention they are receiving.
Romance scammers tactics include laying on the charm, affection, understanding, sympathy, sex appeal, and so on, to groom a victim into dependency on getting attention from the scammer. Once hooked, these tactics may continue to be the way the scammer works, or one of three other aspects can come into play:
- Appealing to you to rescue them in some way – maybe by paying off their debt, buying them a ticket, taking them into your home.
- Blackmail – as part of your ‘courtship’ you may be asked to send images or messages that you would not want posted for the world to see. Never send messages or photos you would not want made public. Scammers ask for compromising material so they can blackmail victims.
- Other threats – depending on the amount of information a scammer has been able to collect about your identity, location, family, health, etc., many types of threats can be made to intimidate, control, or coerce you into doing what the scammer wants.
The risk of scammers and criminals should not stop you from seeking meaningful relationships online; it should just compel you to use caution. Use these links to learn more about spotting scams and spam and eleven safety tips for online dating.