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Romance scams, also known as confidence fraud, involve a perpetrator creating a fake online identity to establish a romantic relationship with someone, with the ultimate goal of manipulating them into sending money or revealing sensitive information.  These scams typically occur on dating websites, social media, or through email.

Scammers often craft detailed and believable personas, sometimes using stolen photos and information from real people. They target vulnerable individuals, gaining their trust over time through affectionate communication. The scammer often claims to be in a profession that requires travel, such as the military or international business, to justify why they cannot meet in person.

The scam usually progresses to a point where the scammer invents an urgent financial need—a medical emergency, legal trouble, or travel expenses—and asks for money. The victim, emotionally invested, often complies, sending money through wire transfers, prepaid cards, or other untraceable methods. Once the money is sent, the scammer may continue to ask for more, often with escalating stories of distress.

These scams can have devastating emotional and financial impacts on victims. Many victims not only lose significant sums of money but also suffer from broken trust and emotional trauma. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and other organizations advise against sending money to anyone you haven’t met in person and recommend verifying their story through independent means.

To protect oneself from romance scams, it’s crucial to be cautious with online interactions. Look for inconsistencies in their story, be wary of overly affectionate messages early on, and never send money to someone you haven’t met. Utilizing reverse image searches to check if their photos are stolen can also be helpful. If you suspect you are being scammed, cease communication immediately and report the profile to the relevant platform or authorities.

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