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Watch Out for Sweetheart Scams

It seems like a dream come true. You meet your “perfect match” online, and they say they love you. They want to see you in person, but first, they need you to send them money for a plane ticket. The only problem? It’s all an elaborate lie to steal your heart and your money.

This all-too-common scenario is known as a “sweetheart scam,” and it’s become increasingly popular in the age of online dating. In 2021 alone, victims reported losing one billion dollars to romance scams. While anyone can be a victim, older adults are especially vulnerable to savvy scammers.

Are you falling in love…or falling for a sweetheart scam? Watch out for these romance red flags:

#1: Their profile seems perfect

If you’re contacted out of the blue by someone whose dating profile seems too good to be true, be suspicious. It’s very easy to pose as other people online, and you may not really know who you’re talking to. To protect yourself from fake dating profiles, do a reverse image search online to see if the individual’s photos are being used anywhere else with a different name.

#2: The relationship is moving fast

Sweetheart scammers try to establish a relationship with their victims quickly to gain their trust and affection. They may ask to move the conversation off the dating site and chat via text message or another app with fewer security protections. Beware of a potential love interest who pushes you to share too much personal information too soon, including private photos. Blackmailing is another common way romance scammers take advantage of their victims.

#3: They can’t — or won’t — meet you in person

In a romance scam, fraudsters will come up with any excuse to hide their real identity, including avoiding video chats and in-person meet-ups. They may claim to live overseas or serve in the military. They may promise to visit you and even ask you to pay for their travel fees, then cancel the trip at the last minute. Don’t fall for it!

#4: They ask for money

Finally, the biggest red flag in an online relationship is a request for money, especially highly specific payment methods like wire transfers, gift cards or cryptocurrency. A romance scammer will try to pull at your heartstrings with reasons they desperately need funds, such as medical bills, family emergencies, gambling debts or other expenses. Be careful: Once you send money to a stranger, it’s likely gone for good.

Sound familiar?

If you believe you’re a victim of a sweetheart scam — or any other type of fraud for that matter — stop communicating with the scammer immediately. If you sent money to a scammer, don’t wait to report the incident to your financial institution. The sooner you report fraud, the faster we can help!

Where to Find More Fraud Prevention Resources

Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU) is here to help you stay up-to-date on the latest scams so you can protect yourself against fraud. For more helpful fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, check out our Fraud Prevention page.