Watch out for dating site “cyber actors” eager to put the moves on your bank account.

4 minute read

We’ve all seen news stories of people looking for love who are bilked out of their life savings by some swoon-inducing swindler met through an online dating site. Many people assume that confidence/romance fraud is rare.

But did you know that leveraging romance to score money from a trusting victim was the seventh most commonly reported scam to the FBI in 2018 – and the second-costliest scam in terms of how much victims lost.

“After establishing their victims’ trust, scammers try to convince them to send money for airfare to visit, or claim they are in trouble and need money,” according to the FBI. “Victims often send money because they believe they are in a romantic relationship.”

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1. Moves fast to communicate off the dating site

Moves fast to communicate off the dating site

People eager to get their hands on your money under the guise of love like to immediately suggest communicating through email, text or phone. If that happens, slow down.

The only thing worse than a desperate dater is a pushy scammer who doesn’t care about breaking your heart – or wrecking your bank account. And many are good at it, convincing you that you’ve finally found true love when all you’ve really found is a bad person who’s after your money.

Find out: The Top 5 Identity Theft Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

2. Attributes meeting you to destiny

Attributes meeting you to destiny

If a new dating site acquaintance tells you that meeting him or her was fate or destiny, don’t be too quick to jump into cyber-bed. People who fall hard for someone say that kind of soul-stirring stuff all the time, but not typically after only a few online exchanges.

“After establishing their victims’ trust, scammers try to convince them to send money for airfare to visit, or claim they are in trouble and need money,” says the FBI. “Victims often send money because they believe they are in a romantic relationship.”

3. Lives abroad

Lives abroad

Just because someone lives in another country doesn’t mean they’re a scammer, but confidence/romance scams often originate in foreign countries, according to the FBI.

Popular ploys include someone claiming to be from the U.S. but stationed overseas in the military, a doctor for an international organization or a U.S. citizen living abroad. After establishing trust, the scammer might ask you to send money or gifts to a foreign address. The person might ask to visit you, requesting that you pay for travel or wire money. Some cyber actors even send bogus travel itineraries.

When your new soulmate doesn’t arrive on time, he or she may claim he or she was arrested at the airport and ask you to send even more money so he or she can post bail.

4. Asks for financial assistance

Asks for financial assistance

Once someone you meet on a dating site has you believing that the two of you are soulmates, you become vulnerable, both emotionally and financially. Once a scammer has your trust, the person can begin trying to get some or all of your money, which was always the goal.

He may claim he’s in trouble in another country and needs money to get back home to the U.S. She may ask for airfare so the two of you can finally meet in person. Someone might ask for help transferring money or opening a bank account.

Whatever the ask, a request for money is a huge red flag and good reason to halt the relationship and report the suspected swindler to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Find out: The 5 Types of Identity Theft and How to Protect Yourself Against Them

5. Has several profiles using the same photo

Has several profiles using the same photo

Is your new online love as hunky or hot as they come? Maybe there’s a reason for that. Cybercriminals often use images lifted from social media or other online sources to sweeten their profile appeal.

Perform a reverse image search to find whether the same image shows up on other dating sites under another name. If so, you’re probably smitten with an online dating scammer.

6. Avoids questions

Avoids questions

Does your online girlfriend skirt questions about where she lives or provide vague answers to specific questions? Maybe your new online beau unwitting gave you two or three different versions of a supposedly traumatic event in his life.

That person could be spinning tales solely intended to gain your trust, sympathy and eventually, your money.

Find out: How to Find Fake Jobs Listings Posted by Cyber Criminals

7. Vanishes and then reappears

Vanishes and then reappears

Once someone on a dating site scams someone, the fraudster will probably remove their profile and move on to the next victim on another website. However, the person may also return to the original site where you had your encounter after time passes.

Whether you were used as a money mule to transfer money for someone who claimed to love you or you suspect that you dodged Cupid’s arrow just in time, report the suspected online scammer to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

Published by Debt.com, LLC