Romance Scams: How to Identify Them and Protect Yourself

Romance Scams: How to Identify Them and Protect Yourself

By Sparkle Nigeria on September 26th, 2022 in Finance | 9 min read

Ladies, get in here!

Remember the Tinder Swindler? The Netflix documentary of how Simon Leviev posed as the heir of a diamond production company to scam over three women to finance his fake billionaire lifestyle.

Truth is, romance scammers are only interested in one thing - your money. They come to you disguised as a potential suitor because they know women are easy targets for romance scams because they tend to love up quickly.

Simon has spent over 4 years in jail and is still wanted by several law enforcement agencies across Europe.

If you've not seen the documentary, add it to your list of documentaries to watch before the end of 2022 - it's full of lessons on romance scams. If you've seen the movie... No spoilers! 🤫

Wait! This is not a movie review. It's a detailed guide, and we will show you how to identify the signs of romance fraud and protect yourself and your loved ones from being a victim, especially now that the festive season is approaching.

Before we jump ahead...

What is a romance scam?

A romance scam happens when a cybercriminal uses a fake identity to gain your trust and form a relationship. He then leverages on this relationship to manipulate and steal from you.

Dating sites like hi5, Badoo, and social media networks like Facebook and Instagram made it easy to connect with people from different parts of the world. Fraudsters are also lurking on these sites to prey on innocent women looking for love.

Romance scammers operate by tricking you into believing they are genuinely in love with you. They 'give you love and take your money.' Once they notice you can no longer send money or you're raising several concerns, they disappear and move on to their next victim.

Romance scammers leave you with heavy financial loss and the emotional trauma of realizing your lover is a fake. Hence, you should approach every online relationship with extra care.

Signs to help you identify a potential romance scammer

🕵️‍♀️ Fake profile and zero digital footprint

How many social media platforms do you use? Two? Three or more? A romance scammer does not want to be easily traced, so, you might never find his profile on another site except where you are connected. Other red flags you should look out for in a profile are:

  • Super attractive profile photos, which are usually a stock images of an actor or a celebrity.

  • Zero or a low number of friends

  • No real-life photo of themselves. Some scammers post photos of beautiful locations they visited and other material things to attract women.

💖 Showering you with love and attention (aka love-bombing)

Romance text message Romance scammers like other con artists are great at human psychology, they understand that women are highly emotional. Therefore, they use emotional triggers like pick-up lines, cute gifs, memes, and out-of-the-blue love messages to come off as affectionate.

How long does it take you to fall in love? Keep the answer in your head... 🤔

If your new friend falls in love with you quicker than your benchmark, he is most likely a scammer.

📱 Inviting you to another platform

Dating sites and social media networks from giant tech companies have security measures to ward off cybercriminals. Romance scammers are aware of this, thus they lure you to connect on less protected platforms and instant messaging apps.

🛫They want to meet you, but...

Romance scammers are great at playing the waiting game. They create a mental picture of a perfect night stargazing with you and promise to come to visit, but never show up.

Their inability to visit is always tied to a last-minute crisis such as a canceled flight due to new business schedules, unavoidable medical conditions preventing them from traveling, an emergency with a family member, and so on. They use these last-minute crises as leverage to ask you for money.

💰 They need money

Every romance scammer's ultimate plan is to defraud their victim as much as possible before being caught. They often start with asking for small financial favors before advancing to requesting larger sums.

Some scammers spoil you with gifts or send you money first to build trust and show their financial stability. They do these to eliminate potential friction when they start asking you for money. Some lies they tell to ask for money include:

  • To invest in a new business
  • To buy a new device for work or finance their current project
  • To pay for travel expenses for visiting you
  • To settle debts

Romance scammer's methods in summary

  • They have a general script (aka format) they use to swindle their victim

  • Connect with you through a fake and attractive profile. Be careful, you may also be the one liking their profile.

  • Fall in love fast

  • Share personal and touching stories to build trust

  • Plan to visit you but never show up

  • Ask for little help

  • Send a screenshot of checks or bank statements to prove financial stability

  • Ask for money

Tips for preventing and protecting yourself from romance scams

Although, dating sites and social media networks have security measures to protect you. It is also your responsibility to protect yourself on the internet.

💡 Pay close attention to warning signs

These are some red flags to help you determine if a profile is fake

  • The profile is too good to be true
  • The profile photo is highly attractive and all their posts are picture-perfect. Who doesn't goof around once in a while on social media?
  • They live far away or work in highly lucrative offshore industries e.g oil extraction, gold mining, international construction company, diamond production - we're watching you Simon 👀
  • The relationship is moving too fast and he is promising to marry you

Romance

🌍 Be aware of your digital footprint

Be aware of everything you share on social media. It is better to take precautionary measures as you can not effectively delete whatever has been posted.

Never post images or captions that can make you a target for cybercriminals e.g posting photos with wads of cash. A general safety tip is to use a dummy email address for dating sites. Never use your work email or email address in formats like firstname_lastname@email.com

💻 Do your own research

MicrosoftTeams-image (17) You are solely responsible for the outcome of all your online interactions. A small digging around could be the action that saves you from being swindled. Copy the name of the profile and do a quick Google search. In case searching for the name is not helpful because it's a seemingly common name, do a reverse image search of their photo.

How to do a reverse image search

  • Save an image of the person
  • Visit images.google.com
  • Upload the image and search

Google will return websites where the image appears. If it appears on a stock image website or shows a name that doesn't match your online partner, you are likely interacting with a scammer.

💘 Don't rush into online relationships

The internet has made it easy to connect with strangers of similar interests. It is always advisable to take things slowly. Approach every relationship with a second thought that anybody you meet online could be a fake and trying to scam you.

🤳 Ask for a video call

Seeing someone's face can reveal hidden information about their personality. If your internet heartthrob is too busy for a video call, chances are he is a scammer.

💸 Never transfer money to your internet lover

Money Tips Never send money to an internet stranger no matter how convincing or desperate they might be.

Protect all your financial details like ATM cards, and banking app login details. And avoid partaking in financial transactions with an unknown person. You could land in jail for aiding and abetting.

👩‍⚖️ If they ask for your help, refer them elsewhere

Scammers could ask for your support to foot their medical bills, refer them to a charity organization or a healthcare support group. Some scammers may ask for your help to claim an inheritance, refer them to estate agencies and lawyers.

👩🏼‍🤝‍👩🏻 Ask a reliable friend or family member for a second opinion

Once you are emotionally connected to someone, it is really hard to come to the realization that they are not who you think they are. If you are in doubt, speak to someone you trust. They may have a broader view and see signs that you are blind to.

What to do if you think you have been scammed

  • First, understand that you can not recover lost money on your own. It could result in further loss.
  • Keep all possible records of your interactions; call logs, screenshots of chats, transaction receipts, voice messages.
  • Stop communicating and report the account to protect others.
  • Report the financial loss to your bank. The scammers may have used your ATM card for recurring payments, your bank can help stop further deductions from your account. With a Sparkle account, you can block your card via the Sparkle app for android or iOS.
  • Involve law enforcement agencies. Your scammer might be part of a large scamming chain. Reporting him could provide relevant information to break their chain.

Wrapping up

Romance scammers usually target their victims through dating sites and social media. It is your responsibility to detect the signs and protect yourself.

What next?

At this point, we have equipped you on how to spot romance scams and prevent them. Feel free to share this article with your friends and families to educate them on the different romance scam strategies and how they can protect themselves.


What do you want to do today?

You decide! Sparkle is a digital bank that gives you freedom, convenience, and simplicity in your everyday life. Open a personal or business account with Sparkle and see for yourself how digitally simple life can be.

Sparkle…digitally simple


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sparkle Nigeria
Sparkle Nigeria

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