By: Robert Fultz, Fraud Investigation Manager, VyStar Credit Union
Thinking of turning to a dating site, app or social network to help you find “the one”? Proceed with caution: A rapidly increasing number of scammers are using these resources to steal money from unsuspecting online daters. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were more than 21,000 reports of romance scams in 2018, with people losing a reported total of $143 million—a total that was higher than that of any other scam reported to the FTC that year.
Knowing the warning signs of a romance scam and getting familiar with important safety tricks can help you prevent imposters from stealing your heart—and your money.
A romance scam typically involves the promise of romance and companionship from online strangers that ultimately leads to the victim being asked for money. It begins when a scammer lures their target with a fake profile and/or photos via online dating sites, social media, mobile apps or other personal messaging systems. They then shower their intended victim with attention, giving the false impression that they are seeking a long-term friendship or serious romantic relationship.
Once the victim feels comfortable with the scammer—and possibly even starts falling in love with them—the perpetrator begins taking advantage of the victim’s emotions and creates fictitious scenarios (e.g., they claim they are having a medical emergency or say they need financial help to visit you) to get the victim to provide money, gifts, or their financial information.
These scams are intricately planned and can be carried out over an extended period of time (weeks, months or even years), as romance scammers invest a great deal of effort into gaining their victims’ trust—and ultimately their money or financial account details.
VyStar members who have any questions about their accounts or a scam, or who think they may have fallen prey to a scam, can reach our Call Center representatives any day of the week, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., at (904) 777-6000 or 1 (800) 445-6289. You can also visit our online Protection Center to find more information about how to report fraud, how to protect yourself from fraud and scams, and how VyStar protects you.
And remember: One of the best ways to help safeguard others from scams is word of mouth, so make sure to spread the word to your family members and friends!
The content provided in this blog consists of the opinions and ideas of the author alone and should be used for informational purposes only. VyStar Credit Union disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information provided.