Each year, tens of thousands of adults of all ages fall victim to online romance scams.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans reported losing more than $1.3 billion to romance scams from 2017 to 2021. Within that same period, reported romance scams increased tenfold for people ages 18 to 29. The highest median losses at $9,000 was found in people over the age of 70.
By creating fake online profiles, appealing to victims’ emotions and fabricating personal connections, scammers try to steal large sums of money and personal information.
Protecting Yourself Online
Share With Care
Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it and how it might affect you or others. Consider creating an alternate persona that you use for online profiles to limit how much of your own personal information you share.
Online scammers prey on sensitive or revealing information and exploit it to appeal to a person’s interests. Scammers create alternate personas as well, but take it much further, and with ill intent.
Check Your Account Settings
Consider setting your social media profiles to “private” to make it difficult for scammers to target and communicate with you. A public profile will make it easy for scammers to find your profile and learn about you through old posts and photos.
Think Before You Act
Be wary of communications that push you for immediate action or ask for personal information. Never share personal information through email, especially if you do not know the sender.
When in Doubt, Throw It Out
Links in email, tweets, texts, posts, social media messages and online advertising are an easy way for cyber criminals to get to you. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting.
Use Reverse Image Search
If you are unsure if you are being scammed, do a reverse image search of the potential scammer’s profile picture. You might see that the image belongs to a completely different person or has been affiliated with different online identities.
Try using these websites for reverse image searches:
Look Out for Red Flags
Scammers can be very convincing, however there are ways to identify a scammer, including but not limited to the following red flags:
- There is a request for money for urgent matters, such as medical expenses or a plane ticket. Never send money to someone you have not met in person.
- They might also request hard-to-track forms of payment, such as pre-loaded gift cards.
- The person claims to live overseas or be in the military.
- The person professes love quickly or the relationship seems to move very fast
- There is pressure to move the conversation off the platform to a different site.
- The person breaks promises to meet you in person.
Know What Action to Take
If you believe you are being targeted by a scam, it is important to take the following steps:
- Stop communications with the scammer immediately.
- Take note of any identifiable information you might have on the scammer, such as their email address or IP address. Take screenshots and write down any contact information.
- Contact your bank or credit card company if you think you have given money to a scammer.
- Report the scammer to the Federal Trade Commission and the FBI.
- Notify the website or app where you met the scammer. They might have more information on the scammer that can help investigators.
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About This Page
This content is provided by the National Cybersecurity Alliance, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Stop.Think.Connect. public awareness campaign aimed at increasing the understanding of cyberthreats and empowering the American public to be safer and more secure online.
The campaign’s main objective is to help you become more aware of growing cyber threats and arm you with the tools to protect yourself, your family and your community. For more information, visit www.dhs.gov/stopthinkconnect.