What is a romance scam?

A romance scam typically involves someone making a false claim of love through an emotional connection over social media or messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. According to a new report from Better Business Bureau, romance scams are most likely to occur in the 20- to 40-year-old age group, though the scams are still very popular with those in the 40- to 60-year-old age bracket.

Even though scammers may pose as a rich, handsome, or otherwise alluring stranger, they typically steal personal information from their victims first, making it easier for them to commit fraud. They may pretend to be someone from a common social media platform, and try to convince their targets that they’ve been separated or that their online relationship is very meaningful.

Scammers on social media

Scammers have also gotten creative in how they reach out to potential victims. That’s what happened in late March 2018, when a family in Florida saw their daughter become enamored with an Instagram user named Clark Sheldon. According to the Floridians, Clark told their teen-age daughter he loved her and wanted to marry her.

But when she didn’t report to him as promised, she soon realized that he was a scammer. Clark claimed he was in jail, but said that the scammers he worked for could release him if she paid a fee. The girl transferred several hundred dollars to an account the scammers controlled.

The Floridians didn’t report their daughter’s predicament to the police, as she had stolen his phone to contact him.

The red flags of a romance scam

So what are the red flags you should look out for? The internet can also make it easier for scammers to weave themselves into your life. When cryptocurrency transactions are involved, scammers tend to flatter you by getting you to visit their social media profiles and profess their love for you. You’ll get texts that look like they’re coming from a familiar number or friend who knows you. If your partner tells you that they’re going to spend so much on flowers or chocolates that you’re going to wish you’d married a billionaire, take it with a grain of salt.

When the scammer does make a sale, they may do it as quickly as possible so that they can avoid having to meet face-to-face or sending you the bitcoin.

Simple steps to protect yourself

1. Don’t fall for ads

Cryptocurrency scams are very common, but ads may be one of the more subtle traps to fall for. Be on the lookout for online ads that promise to help you make more money in a few minutes. While this type of ad might seem legitimate, it’s likely an investment scheme. Be wary of emails or pop-up ads from unfamiliar organizations. Don’t open or respond to an unsolicited email or text message.

2. Know cryptocurrency basics

The basic building block of cryptocurrency is Bitcoin or another popular digital currency. In fact, most of these schemes begin by telling you that your problems can be solved with the help of cryptocurrency. Don’t be fooled. If you want to know more about digital currency, there are lots of free resources online.