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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...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Although, dating sites and social media networks have security measures to protect you. It is also your responsibility to protect yourself on the internet.
These are some red flags to help you determine if a profile is fake
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@example.org
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Romance scammers usually target their victims through dating sites and social media. It is your responsibility to detect the signs and protect yourself.
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.
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.
September 26th, 2022
9 min read