Millions of people turn to online dating apps or social networking sites to meet someone. But instead of finding romance, many find a scammer trying to trick them into sending money. Read about the stories romance scammers make up and learn the #1 tip for avoiding a romance scam.
- The Lies Romance Scammers Tell
- How to Avoid Losing Money to a Romance Scammer
- How to Report a Romance Scam
In 2019, people reported losing $201 million to romance scams. People reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC.
Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps, or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.
The Lies Romance Scammers Tell
They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States. We’ve heard about scammers who say they are:
- working on an oil rig
- in the military
- a doctor with an international organization
We’ve heard about romance scammers asking 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
- with reload cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam
Scammers ask you to pay by wiring money, with reload cards, or with gift cards 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: Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.
If you suspect a romance scam:
- Stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.
- Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.” You can also browse the comments on our blog posts about romance scams to hear other people’s stories:
- Do a reverse image search of the person’ 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.
If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.
If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the website or app where you met the scammer, too.
1. The fake cure scam. Scammers are peddling bogus cures and vaccines. If you’re offered a drug or vaccine to fight coronavirus — especially by a company you’ve never heard of — you’re looking at a scam.
2. Phishing emails from the “World Health Organization” (WHO). Scammers are sending out emails which appear to be from the WHO, but are really an attempt to get you to share personal information.
3. Fake charities. Everyone wants to help those stricken by the virus, but be sure to check out the authenticity of a charity before making your donation.
4. Malicious websites. Scammers have set up websites full of information on COVID-19 with the intention of gaining access to your device. Don’t download any links or open attachments from non-reputable sources.
5. Fake funding scams. Criminals invent a “research team” supposedly on the verge of discovering a cure for COVID-19 — they just need your donation. Of course, all funds donated to this alleged team will go directly into the scammers’ pockets. Only donate to verified causes.
While many Pennsylvanians found a new smartphone under the tree last month, Secretary of Banking and Securities Robin L. Wiessmann urges consumers to consider several strategies to protect their new smartphones from phony apps that can steal information, take over that new device, and wreak havoc on personal networks.
Wiessmann explains that these phony mobile apps are promoted on websites or through marketing emails, which appear to be legitimate offers from well-known companies. However, phony apps are designed to fool users into sharing credit card, banking, or other personal information. Some of these apps also contain viruses, malware, or ransomware, which can take over the phone and steal personal information of people stored in email address books and contact lists.
According to research firm RiskIQ, criminals using phony smartphone apps focus their efforts on imitating the leading brands in e-commerce. These brands have thousands of blacklisted apps that contain branded terms in the title or description.
Wiessmann points to several strategies that can help consumers protect their smartphones:
- Use official app stores. Download apps only from official app stores such as Google or Apple. Though keep in mind the screening processes offered by these official stores are not foolproof and you should still investigate any potential downloads before proceeding.
- Stay up to date. Keep your phone’s operating system up to date, especially with system patches tagged as “critical security update,” which should be applied as soon as possible.
- Protect personal information. Be careful of apps that ask for permission to access information unrelated to the performance of the app, like access to contacts, text messages, administrative features, stored passwords, or banking and credit card info.
- Don’t be fooled by reviews. Rave reviews can be forged, and a high number of downloads can simply indicate a threat actor was successful in fooling a lot of victims. Before downloading an app, be sure to look at the developer—if it’s not a brand you recognize or has a strange appearance or spelling, think twice. You can even do a Google search on the developer for more clues about its reputation.
- Make sure to research each app. For instance, poor grammar in the description can be evidence of quick and careless development and the lack of marketing professionalism that are the hallmarks of malware campaigns.
- Delete what you’re not using. If you are no longer using an app on your phone, delete or uninstall it.
- Use parental controls. Consider implementing parental controls on your child’s phone so you can review any downloads.
© 2018 by Pennsylvania Credit Union Association. All Rights Reserved.
In our continuing efforts to keep your Lebanon Federal Credit Union accounts secure, we’ve improved our alert system for potential fraud. Currently LFCU’s card monitoring service notifies members of potential fraud by email, telephone alerts, and text messaging.
Here’s how it works:
- When potential fraud is detected, you will receive an automatic email notification from Lebanon Federal Credit Union, with the option to reply with “Fraud” or “No Fraud.”
- One minute after the email, you will receive a text alert which also has the “Fraud” or “No Fraud” option.
- If there is no response received from you, five minutes after the text alert, you will receive automatic phone calls to confirm or deny fraud. Remember – our messages will never ask for your PIN or account number. Verification of Zip Code or phone number may be required.
Any questions, please call 717-272-2210
March 4, 2020
by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle
Attorney, FTC, Division of Consumer & Business Education
Scammers may try to use you to move stolen money. If you help them, you could be what law enforcement calls a money mule.
Money mule scams happen several ways. The story often involves scams related to online dating, work-at-home jobs, or prizes. Scammers send money to you, sometimes by check, then ask you to send (some of) it to someone else. They often want you to use gift cards or wire transfers. Of course, they don’t tell you the money is stolen and they’re lying about the reason to send it. And there never was a relationship, job, or prize. Only a scam.
What happens next? If you deposit the scammer’s check, it may clear but then later turn out to be a fake check. The bank will want you to repay it. If you give the scammer your account information, they may misuse it. You could even get into legal trouble for helping a scammer move stolen money.
How can you avoid money mule scams?
- Don’t accept a job that asks you to transfer money. They may tell you to send money to a “client” or “supplier.” Say no. You may be helping a scammer move stolen money.
- Never send money to collect a prize. That’s always a scam, and they might be trying to get you to move stolen money.
- Don’t send money back to an online love interest who’s sent you money. Also always a scam — and another a way to get you to move stolen money.
Criminals are good at making up reasons to help them move money. Don’t do it. The money may be from other people they scammed. You may be helping criminals hurt people just like you.
If you think you might be involved in a money mule or money transfer scam, stop transferring money. Notify your bank, the wire transfer service, or any gift card companies involved. Then, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Please share this information and the FTC’s new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation. People may be embarrassed or afraid to talk about their experiences, but you can help. A simple phone call, email or text, saying “Look what I just found” may make a difference in someone’s life.
Securing your Account Information & Identity
Keeping your account safe
- Use a complex password and memorize the password. Do not write down your passwords or store them in your browsers or other computer programs.
- Do not reply to suspicious emails, text messages, phone calls or voice messages.
- Do not use online banking on public or shared computers.
- Always sign off when you have completed your transactions in your online account
Keeping your computer safe
- Always use firewall and anti-virus software on your computer. Keep your computer up to
date with the latest virus definitions and software patches.
- Never download software from unknown sources such as a pop up or email.
Keeping your identity safe
- Never share personal information by telephone or email.
- Review your monthly statements for fraudulent activity.
Keeping your identity safe
- Review your credit reports annually for erroneous information. You can receive your credit report for free at www.annualcreditreport.com
Each year, fraudsters find new ways to trick people and financial institutions out of money. Whether its an imposter scam – impersonating a love interest, a grandchild, debt collector, the Social Security Administration etc. – or stealing someone’s identity, these fraudsters know how to pull it off. While some of these scams involve new tricks, many have been around for decades.