Lucky in Love or Unlucky in a Scam?

Amy Donaghue

By: Karen Sylvester, AAP, APRP, CAMS, CRCM, NCP, Director, Compliance Education

It’s that time of year – love is in the air and Valentine’s Day is approaching!

Many Americans dream of finding their one true love and, in the world of technology, many are turning to online platforms to find that special someone (you may have even helped Hoot-E with his online dating profile last month). Common online platforms include (but are not limited to) email, social media, dating apps and dating websites. While one person’s intentions may be to find love, unfortunately scammers often prey on hopeless romantics for financial gain.

Romance scammers typically create fictitious profiles with attractive pictures and personal information lifted from internet searches or the social media profiles of real people. Within a short period of communication, the scammer is likely to claim they need money for one reason or another.

These scams happen to everyday people, including your friends, family, account holders and clients. Here are tips and helpful information to share forward to help those important to you avoid a romance scam.

The Lies Romance Scammers Tell

Scammers often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States. They commonly say they are:

  • working on an oil rig
  • in the military
  • a doctor working for an international organization

Romance scammers often ask their targets for money to:

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

Scammers ask people to pay by:

  • wiring money
  • using reloadable cards like MoneyPak
  • purchasing gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes or Steam

Scammers prefer these payment methods because they can get cash quickly and remain anonymous. They also know the transactions are almost impossible to reverse.

How To Avoid Losing Money to a Romance Scammer

Here’s the bottom line: your account holders should never send money or gifts to a sweetheart they haven’t met in person.

If someone you care about suspects they are involved in a romance scam, here are a few tips to pass along:

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.
  • Encourage them to talk to someone they trust and pay attention if their friends or family say they’re concerned about their new love interest.
  • Suggest they search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, they could search for “oil rig scammer” or “U.S. Army scammer.” They can also browse the comments on the Federal Trade Commission’s blog posts about romance scams to hear other people’s stories:
  • Suggest they conduct a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up – those are signs of a scam.

Reporting a Romance Scam

  • Encourage them to contact their financial institution right away if their account information has been compromised or they have been involved in a scam.
  • If they paid a romance scammer with a gift card, suggest that they contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them to let the company know they paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund the money.
  • If they believe they’ve been a victim of a scam, encourage them to report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. They should also notify the website or app where they met the scammer, too.

Being the victim of a romance scam is a sad reality for so many and is heartbreaking both emotionally and financially. Be sure to pass along these important tips to your account holders and remember them so you can potentially prevent your account holders from sending money and falling victim.

Source: Federal Trade Commission

Stay Up to Date on the Latest Scams!

Staying aware of the latest fraud trends is an essential part of helping your account holders, and your financial institution, avoid the loss of funds and falling victim to scams. Join us for our one-day, in-person Payment Systems Update to learn about and engage in an interactive discussion surrounding recent fraud trends and considerations. Register now! For those not able to attend in person, there is also an abbreviated virtual update available. You can also join us for regular, virtual updates on all things fraud by joining us for our Quarterly Compliance and Fraud Review webinars. Our first webinar of 2022 is happening March 9th, and you can save $225 by registering for all four webinars!