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The holidays are just around the corner. 

Suddenly, your military boyfriend  — whom you have never met but who looks like George Clooney in his online photos —calls and asks for money. 

There could be many reasons: his mother is sick, and he needs money for hospital bills. Or his brother is in jail, and he needs to help him out.

Don’t do it!

This is one of the oldest and most common romance scams in the book.

In 2022, almost 70,000 people reported they became victims of online romance scams. The total losses amounted to a staggering $1.3 billion

According to the FTC, romance or dating scams account for 24 percent of all online thefts.

Here we look at the five red flags to help you steer clear of these heartless scams.

Image: Deposit Photos

Too Good to Be True

If someone you’ve just met online seems too good to be true — they might actually be too good to be true. 

Scammers often create picture-perfect profiles with impossibly handsome or beautiful photos. 

They may shower you with compliments and profess love at an alarming speed. While genuine connections can be magical, be cautious.

If the person seems too perfect or if their declarations of love come too quickly, it may be a red flag.

Mysterious Background

Romance scammers often keep their own lives shrouded in mystery. They might be vague about their personal details, such as where they live or work. 

They might not go into too much detail about their family life or friends.

This evasive attitude is a sign that you need to exercise caution. A genuine connection involves open communication and mutual trust. 

That’s why you need to be wary of those who dodge questions about their background.

Money Matters: A Tricky Topic

One significant red flag in romance scams involves the topic of money. Scammers create elaborate stories to gain your sympathy and your financial support. 

They might claim to be in dire situations, such as a medical emergency or financial crisis, tugging at your heartstrings to open your wallet. Be cautious if your new connection starts asking for money or financial help. 

Authentic relationships should be built on trust and mutual support, not financial manipulation.

Dodgy Profile Pictures and Information

Pay close attention to the profile pictures and information provided by your online crush. 

Romance scammers often use stolen photos from the internet to create a false identity. If you suspect something fishy, you can use reverse image searches to check if the pictures are genuine. 

Additionally, inconsistencies in the information provided on their profile could be a red flag. 

Check for discrepancies in details such as age, location, or even career history. A genuine connection should be based on honesty, so don’t hesitate to verify the information presented.

Rushed Requests for Moving Offline

Be wary if your new love interest is in a hurry to take things to the next level. 

Romance scammers often try to move the relationship offline quickly to avoid being detected. 

They might suggest meeting in person or shifting to a private communication platform early on. If the pace seems too fast and feels uncomfortable, pump the brakes. 

Authentic connections develop at a comfortable pace, allowing you to build trust gradually.

Image: Deposit Photos

Best Practices for Avoiding Romance Scams

Avoiding romance scams involves a combination of awareness, caution, and smart online practices:

Be Skeptical: If a romantic interest seems too perfect or if the relationship is progressing at an unusually fast pace, it might be a red flag. Scammers often create idealized personas to manipulate emotions.

Guard Your Personal Information: Never share personal details early in a relationship, like your home address, financial details, or workplace. Be certain of the other person’s authenticity before you do that.

Verify Their Identity: Use reverse image searches or other methods to verify the identity of your online crush. Scammers frequently use stolen photos, and a quick search can reveal if the images have been used elsewhere on the internet.

 Take It Slow: Authentic relationships develop gradually. If someone is pushing you to move the relationship offline or make significant commitments too quickly, it could be a sign of a scam. Take your time getting to know the person.

Beware of Requests for Money: Never send money to someone you’ve met online but never met in person. Scammers create sob stories to evoke sympathy and trick you into providing financial help.

Question Inconsistencies: Pay attention to inconsistencies in their stories, profile information, or communication. Scammers may slip up and provide conflicting details. If something doesn’t add up, ask questions and be cautious.

Verify Their Background: If the person is hesitant to share details about their background, such as where they work or live, it’s a warning sign. Genuine individuals should be open about their lives and willing to share information.

Use Reputable Dating Platforms: Stick to well-known and reputable dating platforms. These platforms often have security measures in place to detect and remove scammers.

Use VPN: A Virtual Private Network like Surfshark can enhance your online security. It is aimed to mask your IP address and ensure websites or anyone online can’t see your personal information.

Stay Informed: Keep yourself updated on common scams and tactics used by scammers. Awareness is a powerful tool in avoiding falling victim to fraudulent activities.

Trust Your Instincts: Always trust your intuition if something doesn’t add up. Your gut feeling is most often right. So, take a step back to look at the bigger picture of your relationship. You might notice something suspicious.

Bottom Line

The world of online romance can be a beautiful journey when approached with caution. By being aware of these red flags, you can protect yourself from falling victim to heartless romance scams. 

Remember, genuine connections are built on trust, honesty, and time. 

Stay vigilant, listen to your instincts, and don’t let the allure of a virtual romance cloud your judgment. Love should enhance your life, not compromise it.

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