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Better Business Bureau Scam Alert: How to Spot A Dating Scam On Social Media

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  Romance scams are more common than ever. Even if you don’t use dating apps, you might still be targeted by one. BBB Scam Tracker is getting reports from dating scam victims who were conned through social media. Get to know the signs, so you can spot a fake romance before getting in too deep.

  How the scam works: You’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook when you get a direct message from a user you don’t know. If you reply, the conversation will start innocently enough. At first, the scammer will claim to share your interests and likely has a social media account reflecting that. For example, if you post photos of your pets, the person might claim to be a fellow animal lover. If you share pictures of your children, the scammer might pretend to be a fellow single parent.

  The scammer will quickly profess to be head-over-heels in love with you – without ever meeting you in person. But something is off! A dramatic emergency seems to crop up whenever you plan to meet. For example, your love interest suddenly needs financial support for their sick child. “Fortunately,” you can help by wiring funds or sending prepaid gift cards.

  One social media user told BBB Scam Tracker about their experience: “He sent me a DM through my Instagram account and instantly started love bombing me. He promised me we would spend our lives together forever, and he would marry me. l planned to move to New York to live with him. Then an emergency struck, and he needed my help to get home from Barbados. He claimed he was a successful businessman and a millionaire, so he would pay me back when he returned to the States. It never happened. Every time he was supposed to come to see me, another emergency would happen, and he needed more money from me.”

  Unfortunately, if you send money to the scammer, it will be gone for good. The person you fell in love with doesn’t exist. To make matters worse, con artists will repeat the emergency scenarios until you realize the scam or run out of money – whichever comes first.

  How to avoid dating scams

  • Know the signs of romance scams. Romance scams often start with someone who seems too perfect and immediately falls in love with you. The person might be in a hurry to create a future together but hesitant to meet you in person. They might tell you they are overseas or in the military. They often talk about the importance of trust to gain yours, and they might share sad stories to pull on your heartstrings before asking you for money. Any one of these tactics is a big red flag. If you notice similarities with someone who has messaged you on social media, think twice about your relationship.
  • Never send money or personal information to someone you haven’t met. Refrain from giving a stranger your credit card or bank account information. Don’t wire money to or share the PIN of a gift card with someone you’ve never met. An online “friend” might not even really exist!
  • Ask lots of questions. When you meet someone online, ask them specific questions about the details in their profile and pay close attention to their answers. If they lie, they likely won’t be able to keep their story straight.
  • Do some research. Do a reverse image lookup of a person’s profile picture to see if it is being used elsewhere on the internet. Scammers often use the same stolen photos to create fake profiles. You can also search their name, email and phone number to see if you find anything fishy.

  For more information: Read BBB’s tip on romance scams (https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/17012-bbb-tip-romance-scams) for more helpful advice. Get information on specific dating scams on the BBB Romance Scam page (https://www.bbb.org/all/romance_scams). Also, be on the lookout for a similar scam involving wrong number text messages (https://www.bbb.org/article/scams/26053-bbb-scam-alert-wrong-number-text-message-could-be-a-scam-bot).

  If you spot a scam on social media, romance-related or otherwise, report it! By sharing your experience at https://www.bbb.org/ScamTracker, you can help the Better Business Bureau expose scammers’ tactics.

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