Running romance scams is a full-time job for some scammers and they can be very good at it. In the first three months of 2018, New Zealanders reported losing $7.9 million to romance scams – and the real figure is probably much higher as most people don’t report such scams, due to embarrassment and blaming themselves for falling for a con.
A scammer pretends to be in a relationship with someone online in order to scam them out of money. This is most commonly through dating websites and APPS but also through social media, other websites and APPS where they can find targets. The scammers setup fake accounts on the dating website or wherever needed and usually use other people’s identities and photos as chosen to give them the maximum appeal to their intended victims.
They will have a fake backstory, family, friends and job and usually they’re scamming multiple people at the same time. Once they’ve worked to gain the trust of the person they’ve targeted, they will use various stories to get money or details from that person. They may start by requesting small sums of money to test the waters, and then build up to requesting larger amounts. Sometimes they won’t actually ask for money, but they will talk about problems that can solved by money, because they know that the target will offer financial assistance. In some cases the scammer may try to get the person targeted to unknowingly help launder money for their criminal activities.
How to Identify a Romance Scam
- Profession of love or strong feelings within a short time of meeting the person online.
- If your new love mentions health problems, family issues, business troubles or other issues that could be solved with money.
- Requests for money: You should be wary of any request for money.
- Changes in communication style: If there are several scammers taking turns to maintain the relationship, their writing styles may change.
- If a new romantic contact is not willing to meet up or talk via video call, or comes up with a series of excuses to avoid meeting, you should be cautious.
- Financial assistance to meet in person: Also be careful about offering or giving the person money so that they can meet you in person.
Some scammers are more than willing to play the waiting game before getting a pay off. Scammers may keep a “relationship” going for months or even longer before they begin to request money or drop hints about problems that could be solved with money.
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