Romance scams are typically tricks where a vulnerable individual is contacted via a dating website or other means and financially exploited. Romance scammers are individuals who create fake profiles, even claiming to be someone of the opposite sex, to trick people into a false sense of romantic relations or feign romantic intentions, by gaining their trust and affection, and then using that goodwill to defraud them.
Romance scams usually take place online via dating apps or social media platforms. However, there are reports of cases whereby the scammer approaches the victim physically. There has been a spike in romance scams under COVID-19 lockdown. This has provided the perfect cover for scammers. Prior to the pandemic, it was still considered a little odd to start a relationship without ever meeting the person. Now, however, for people who are single, due to the susceptibility factor of the virus, online dating is the only option.
Anyone can fall prey to romance scams, not just the vulnerable, but the savvy, well-educated and competent people are falling prey. Over the course of a few months or weeks, the victims are seduced by the sincerity and supposed openness of the scammer. Even oddities that should tip them off, like a person being stuck in another country, may appear normal, ordinary, and reasonable during the quarantine.
It has been reported that people have been losing more money to romance scams in the last two years than any other fraud. Romance scammers contact their targetS through social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Romance scammers often times use lies like:
- I work on an oil rig.
- I am in the special military forces.
- I am an African prince or royalty.
- I am a doctor in an international organization.
- I am an heir to a conglomerate.
- I am an investor.
There are no ends to the lies scammers tell, from living to traveling to different countries. They also ask their targets for money to:
- Pay for visa or travel documents
- To pay for a plane ticket
- To pay custom fees
- To pay for surgery and other medical expenses.