Legitimate Love Connection or High-Cost Heartache?

Romance scammer sending fraudulent text messageLove has an odd way of convincing us to do things we otherwise wouldn’t – even things we might regret.
Human as we are, regret can quickly lead to financial ruin if we fall victim to a romance scam. Despite an abundance of red flags, love continues to overpower instinct, common sense, and even past experience when it comes to online relationships, costing Americans hundreds of millions each year in financial losses.
Among the warning signs and prevention methods you should keep top of mind while dating online, one truth remains supreme:
You control what you give away.


Keep Private Details Private

In 2022, 40% of people who lost money to a romance scam said the contact started on social media, and 19% said it began on a website or app. Whether someone is sliding into your DMs or connecting with you through a reputable online dating site, best practice is to refrain from offering too many personal details about yourself.
Wondering what’s considered personal?
Well, let’s start with the numbers. None of the following should be sent, shared, posted, or associated with your social or dating profiles:

  • Social Security Number (SSN)

  • Driver’s License Number

  • Bank Account numbers

  • Passport number

  • Phone number

  • Full birthdate

Other details that increase your susceptibility to fraud include your last name, email address, home address, current location, and employer.
Less obvious are things like proper names. It might seem harmless if your online interest asks you the name of your pet or a public figure who inspires you, but these details are commonly used for passwords and could unknowingly provide someone with intel to access your online accounts.
General rule of thumb, the less specific you can be, the better.


Perception Is Not Reality

Finding out someone shares your values, political views, and hobbies can add excitement to any budding romance, but chances are physical attraction is also playing a role. When it comes to sharing photos, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Dating apps like Bumble are starting to implement AI-powered tools to identify profiles that contain human moderation, often in the form of altered or completely fabricated photos. That means the “person” you’re currently attracted to might not even exist. Professional headshots, model-like photos, and features that appear unnatural or unrealistic can be indicators of an AI-generated image.
Speaking of photos, you should refrain from ever sending intimate or incriminating photos of yourself to someone you don’t know and don’t trust. They could be used as blackmail in exchange for your personal information or your money.


Protect What’s Yours

That brings us to one of the most critical online dating guidelines of all:
Never, under any circumstances, send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
If you are asked for cash, check, wire transfer, cryptocurrency, gift cards – any form of payment whatsoever – do not send it. No matter how long you’ve been talking to this individual, how heartbreaking their story, or what they’ve promised in return. If you have never physically met them face-to-face, their request for money is a red flag. 
Finally, scammers have been known to instruct their victims not to trust the help of law enforcement or financial institutions. While this may seem like an obvious sign of trouble, victims are often convinced their secrecy is protecting the one they love. Please remember, it is our job, and that of public servants, to protect you and your assets. If anyone is posing a risk to your personal or financial well-being, you can and should contact your financial institution for help.

Community First Members - if you think you have been the victim of fraud, contact us immediately or stop into one of our branch locations so we can take steps to protect your accounts. Our team members are trained to assist in cases of suspected fraud and will do everything in our power to help.

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