Beware of the Swindling Sweetheart

Concerned woman looking at message on cell phone.

Widely recognized as a month for spooky celebrations, October brings with it plenty of frightening thoughts. But scarier than any ghoul or ghost is the possibility of losing your hard-earned money to an online scam, particularly one accompanied by heartbreak.
Romance scams involve a cybercriminal who creates a fake profile to court people online, proceeds to gain the victim’s trust (and emotional commitment), and convinces them to send money before severing ties and ceasing communication. It’s as ruthless as it sounds, and it’s leaving millions in emotional and financial detriment.
In observance of the first annual World Romance Scam Prevention Day (October 3), we’ve assembled the warning signs, prevention methods, and reporting tips you need to avoid a costly online dating nightmare.


Strange Behavior

With more than 57 million people using dating apps in the U.S. alone, it’s no wonder so many people mistake cybercriminals for legitimate romantic partners. Here are some telltale signs your cyber sweetheart is really a frightful fraudster.

  1. They can’t meet you in person. Beware of the person who cancels or postpones plans, claims to be stationed abroad, or cites an unforeseen emergency for their lack of availability.

  2. They’re too good to be true. If someone is selling you an attractive story, but can’t back it up with specifics or photographic proof, it’s a red flag.

  3. The relationship moves quickly. Professing love within the first week? Marriage proposals? Requests to move communications off the dating site? Something’s not right.

  4. They make repeated mistakes. If conversations don’t flow or make sense, grammar and spelling are off, or their story is full of contradictions, you can bet it’s a scam.

  5. They ask for money. Never send money to a romantic interest you’ve never met in person, no matter what sob story they give you. Requests for gift cards, prepaid cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency should be especially concerning.


Preventing Peril

In addition to knowing the warning signs, there are a few key things you can do to protect yourself from a potential romance scam.

  1. Review your online presence. Be careful what personal details you share on your dating profile or social media account. The more information you make public, the easier it is for a scammer to target you.

  2. Move slow. Take new relationships one step at a time, and be wary of those who want to rush into things.

  3. Make phone or video contact. Hearing someone’s voice (better yet, seeing their face in real time) is one of the best methods for confirming your love interest is who they say they are.

  4. Do your own research. If your love interest’s profile is vague or they have suspiciously low social followers/connections, try a reverse image search by copying and pasting their photo into If the photo shows up on a stock site or belongs to a different profile, it’s probably a scam.

  5. Trust your instinct. Ask prodding questions, seek the opinion of someone you trust, and take a step back from the relationship. Something that seems too good to be true usually is.


Sharing Your Story

Think you’ve been scammed? You may or may not be able to recoup your losses, but you CAN play a pivotal role in stopping the scammer by reporting the incident. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Stop communication with the individual immediately.

  2. Contact your bank right away if you’ve sent the scammer any money.

  3. Compile a record of your interactions, including conversations and transactions.

  4. Report the incident to:

    1. Your local police.

    2. The FTC

    3. The FBI

    4. The dating site or social media platform where the scam originated


Fighting Fraud, Fueling Education

Matters of the heart are always challenging, but romance scams can have especially damaging outcomes, both financially and psychologically. The epidemic has resulted in the loss of billions, wiped out retirement savings for many, and contributed to several episodes of suicide and self-harm among victims.
Luckily, with the establishment of World Romance Scam Prevention Day, education and awareness around this topic continue to grow. With continued vigilance of our activity online, we can protect our bank accounts and our hearts.


Community First Members - if you think you have been the victim of fraud, contact us immediately so we can take steps to protect your accounts.

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