During these unprecedented times, doing things virtually, such as shopping, going to school or having virtual celebrations, can not only prove to be convenient, but for some, also the safest thing to do right now. The same way that it is convenient for all of us, is the same way that it is even more convenient for online scammers. There are so many scams that are out there, however, this week let’s talk about romance scammers.
Online dating sites and social media platforms are some of the main ways that people “fall in love” online. Romance scans rely on meeting people online and wooing them with lofty promises and by saying all the right things. The scammers get to know their victims personally, utilizing private chats and texts. Over time, the romance scammer will begin to express a closeness that they feel with the victim. Eventually, those feelings turn into full declarations of love! Romance scammers do not just target your bank account, but also your heart. They prey on the basic need for romantic connections. Once the scammer knows they have hooked their victim, they will have some sort of financial hardship or setback that requires money. Alternatively, the victim can also feel trusting enough to express their financial hardships and setbacks with their new love interest. This is what makes romance scams some of the most difficult scams to rebound from.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Americans lost more money to romance scams last year than to any other scam! The FTC reports that Americans reported losing around 304 million dollars to romance scams in 2020. The scammers often “catfish” the victims, by posing as Americans working abroad or in the military serving abroad. In most cases, the scammers steal the identity and photo of a real person serving in the military or from an active account on social media.
There are two new romance scams that involve “money mules” and “cryptocurrencies” such as Bitcoin. In the cryptocurrency scam, the scammer convinces the victim to leave the dating site and use a texting app, such as WhatsApp, where the tell you a story about a family member or friend who has made a lot of money investing in cryptocurrencies and lures the victim into putting money into a phony cryptocurrency investment and the funds are ultimately stolen. In the money mule scam, the scammer actually sends the victim money under a variety of pretenses and then asks the victim to wire the money back to them. The victim becomes a part of a money laundering crime because he or she actually participates. As a banker, I cannot tell you how many of these scams we see daily with customers of all ages, genders, and ethnicities.
Here are some common signs and red flags to look out for. Romance scammers profess love quickly without meeting you; claim to need money for emergencies; try to lure you off of the dating site; ask for your personal online banking credentials to “deposit money” into your account; ask you to wire funds, use Western Union, MoneyGram, or gift cards; or mail you a check using FedEx or UPS; or ask you NOT to tell the bank certain details.
When your bank asks you questions about transactions that we are trained to identify as red flags, trust us. We are not trying to invade your privacy. If you are truly a victim, we can help you avoid the financial loss or any criminal charges. You are ultimately responsible for YOUR account. Email me any questions directly at firstname.lastname@example.org #bankwithbea