RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As more people go online looking for love, federal agencies like the FBI and FTC say romance scams are rising.
Gone are the times when a scammer would try and romance you with cards and letters.
Now they use technology to try and trick you and it’s more effective for the criminals because there are so many variations to the scam.
“You start to type and develop an emotional relationship without meeting a person or talking,” said Wired Editor-in-Chief Nick Thompson.
And as romance scammers get more and more information, they find out the best ways to manipulate you.
“It’s a situation where we’ve given up lots of data—we’re emotionally vulnerable and become susceptible marks,” said Thompson. “That’s why it’s growing.”
Federal authorities said more than 21,000 people were victimized by romance scams last year, losing more than $143 million.
“Unfortunately, senior citizens are the most targeted,” said Kayla Gilbert of the BBB of Eastern NC. “They lose an average of $10,000 to a romance scam.”
Romance scammers hide behind a computer screen creating fake profiles and will often rip off pictures from elsewhere pretending it’s them.
One way to check a photo is with Google’s revere photo lookup.
You can also go to an online investigative service website called “Social Catfish.”
It’s a pay service that has everything you need in one location.
It has a reverse photo lookup feature as well as ways to help you check email addresses, phone numbers and online profiles.
Because romance scammers skirt the law, most of them never get caught.
“They are heartless criminals,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “Most of the are generally located abroad. They find people who are lonely and connect with them on social media.”
If you’re on a social media dating site, romance scammers will try to get you to take your conversations private so no one else can see what’s going on.
Red flags abound when it comes to these scams.
- Be wary of someone who never wants to meet in person
- Relentless messaging to keep the conversation going
- Efforts to develop the relationship quickly
- Requests for money
And, those requests for money can be sneaky.
“You’re supposed to meet up and they say their car broke down and they need you to wire them maybe $100 to get it fixed,” said Gilbert. “Requests like that are a huge red flag.”
If you’re in an online relationship with someone you’ve never met and they start asking for money or make other odd requests, put the brakes on and stop.
Tell a friend or relative what’s going on. Show them conversations with this person.
Often someone outside your relationship can help you see what’s really going on.
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