Online Dating Scams Are on the Rise — How to Save Some Heartache (and Cash)

A young woman hugs a pillow and looks at her mobile phone.
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Just when you thought dating couldn’t be any more annoying.

Last year, people reported losing $143 million to romance scams — that’s more than any other type of scam reported to the FTC. And the number is only expected to increase.

I know what you’re thinking; online dating is expensive enough, and now we have to worry about being scammed?

Don’t move to a convent just yet. There are ways to spot a romance scam and even get your money back if it happens to you.

How to Spot Online Dating Scams

Your first red flag is if they can’t meet you in person.

If someone says they’re abroad and can’t meet, you should tread carefully. If they continually make excuses about why they can’t meet, it’s best to move on.

Scammers will use excuses like memberships that are about to end to get your phone number or email address so they can communicate free from scam monitors. While even the best dating sites can miss scammers, they still have systems in place to block suspicious behavior, so don’t be fooled.

That’s how one woman lost over $50,000 in an online-dating scam. The 2.5-month relationship included over 10,000 text messages, 400 phone calls and zero first dates.

Do a Google image search for their profile pictures to see if they’ve been used anywhere else. Scammers will post well-groomed pictures with nice things in nice places. It makes you think they’re wealthy, so when they ask you for money, you trust they’ll pay you back.

If their speech reads like a bad Google translate, then it probably is a bad Google translate. And a sudden emergency is always a telltale sign of a scammer. Even if they don’t ask for money, scammers have guilted victims into giving to not-so-worthy causes.

What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed

First, don’t be embarrassed.

FTC reports of romance scams jumped from 8,500 in 2015 to more than 21,000 in 2018, so you’re not alone.

If you’ve given your banking information to anyone you believe may be a scammer, call your credit card company or bank and file a fraud victim statement with the three credit bureaus.

If you received any attachments from the scammer, update your computer’s anti-malware software and do a virus scan.

Money-transferring services are making every effort to protect victims of fraud. The BBB recommends reporting scams from as far back as 2004 to the FTC.

Jen Smith is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder and gives money saving and debt-payoff tips on Instagram at @modernfrugality.