Cybersecurity: Online dating scams

Protect yourself from romance and online dating scams

A romance scam is a fraudulent scheme in which a cybercriminal pretends to have romantic interest in a target.

The criminal’s goal is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear themselves to the victim, gain trust, and eventually profess to have fallen in love. Ultimately, the scammer will ask for money or personal information from the victim under these false pretenses.

Romance scams often focus on older or isolated adults who may be more trusting and more vulnerable. Unfortunately, common targets are widows and widowers, but criminals will target anyone eager for a new relationship.

Here’s how it works:

  • Romance scams usually involve the criminal assuming a false online identity, typically on a dating or social networking site, for the purpose of tricking their victims.
  • Many claim they are working overseas and they always have a fantastic story (such as working on an oil rig, on assignment for the military or a successful business person)
  • They search social media sites, exploiting information that potential targets have posted, to gain their interest and trust.
  • The criminals may claim to have an emergency need for the funds or may request money for airfare to visit their victim, but never actually come.
  • Criminals will often ask for photos or personal information that could eventually be used to blackmail the victims for more money.

What you should do

  • If you suspect an online relationship is a scam, stop all contact immediately.
  • Call your financial advisor right away if you sent money or shared your financial information with the suspected criminal.
  • Gather any information relating to the situation, like the suspect’s profile name, emails, where you made contact, etc. and contact your local police.
  • Be vigilant with your heart and your wallet. On the dating or social media site where you met, check for other users with similar stories. Criminals usually have more than one account.