Dating websites and apps were popular before the pandemic, but lockdowns and social distancing requirements gave them even more steam. Unfortunately, with more people looking for love and companionship online, dating scams also increased. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that financial loss due to dating scams in 2020 rose to $304 million.
This amount represents a 50% increase over the previous year. Dating scams in the corona times include things like requests to send money, gift cards, and personal details.
Often, these requests are disguised as a plea to the victim to help a person they think they are involved with or getting to know. Scammers then either take the money and run or use the victim’s personal information to commit fraud.
Keep reading to learn more about each scam and how to keep yourself safe in the online dating world!
Dating Scams Involving Money
These scams happen when someone you’ve been communicating with online asks you to send them money. The scammer usually comes up with a reason that preys on your emotions.
For example, a person you’ve gotten to know via a dating app may ask you to send money because they’ve come down with COVID-19. And, they need the money to help pay for hospital bills or living expenses.
Another way scammers ask is by saying they sent you money and need it back or sent to someone else. This is a red flag for potential money laundering.
A good way to avoid these scams is to not send money to someone you don’t know in person yet. If someone you’re talking to online asks for money, start asking questions. This alone may cause them to disappear or back off.
However, some people can be persistent so it’s best not to send money unless you’ve met in person and have known them offline for a while. You should get to know someone offline for at least six months (or even a year) to establish trust.
Dating Scams Involving Gift Cards
Online dating scams involving gift cards unfold a little differently than those involving money. The person you’ve been interacting with online asks you to buy a gift card and send them the card and pin numbers. Once they have these, they can use the money on the card.
The FTC says that gift cards are what online dating scammers request the most. They may also ask for a wire transfer using gift card funds. During the pandemic, people sent an average of $2,500 per transaction using gift cards. This is a higher amount than with other types of funds.
To avoid these scams, some of the same principles for money scams apply. You should avoid buying gift cards for people you don’t know in person. If the person claims to have sent you money they have to get back, ask questions, and refuse to send any form of payment.
It’s also a good idea to verify what they are telling you. Ask questions about why they need the funds, how they sent you money, and run the details by people you know you can trust.
Identity Theft and Fraud Scams
These scams happen when someone asks for your personal information, such as your bank account, credit card, or social security number. Instead of just asking for money, the person may ask for personal details they can use later to commit fraud. The BBC reports many romance scams like this start on dating sites.
However, the scammer usually takes the conversation off the website to instant messaging apps or texts to try to cover their tracks. The person may ask for personal information in a subtle manner or ask for them while requesting small amounts of money.
For example, the person you think you’re getting to know may ask for your email password. Then they can go through it to see if there’s sensitive information about your financial accounts saved in your messages.
To avoid these types of scams, don’t disclose any sensitive information to someone you don’t know offline. Never exchange personal information online through dating apps, texts, or social media with people you haven’t met in real life.