Learn More About Romance Scams

As a term, “romance scam” probably sounds a bit generic. But it actually refers to a specific type of emotional manipulation for financial gain, usually involving two people who meet online. Read on to learn more about what romance scams could entail.

Fixated on Manipulating Your Emotions

The easiest way to tell if you’re deep in a romance scam is to determine whether the person you’re talking to is intensely manipulating your emotions. That’s the hallmark of a romance scam, and it’s what earned the scam its name. In a romance scam, the victim may believe the two are hopelessly in love. Because of that love, the victim may be compelled to send huge amounts of money, lavish gifts and personal information.

The thing is, of course, that the scammer carefully orchestrates all of this. The scammer doesn’t have any emotional ties to the victim; the victim is a means to an end. Some romance scammers stay with just a handful of individuals for months or even years, slowly draining away the person’s savings and stringing the person along until it’s over.

Often Different From Generic Dating Scams

If a romance scam describes when a person scams another using a dating relationship as a cover, how does it differ from any other dating scam? The answer lies in the word “romance.” A romance scam focuses on a long-term relationship, usually with an elderly or lonely individual. By relying largely on an emotional connection, romance scammers can maintain long-term “relationships” during which the individual tends to slowly accumulate the victim’s wealth.

Some places utilize the term “dating scam” and “romance scam” interchangeably. If you read a paper that uses the two terms interchangeably, it’s not that the paper uses a term incorrectly, it’s just a regional difference. Generic dating scams and romance scams often have an overlap of some kind even when a source makes a distinction between the two.

Some of the Most Damaging Scams

Because romance scammers are so good at tugging on victims’ heartstrings, these scams routinely rank as some of the most financially impactful scams out there. Romance scammers also tend to target lonely elderly folk, who are often some of the most likely to become part of a scam in general.

On average, a victim of a romance scam will lose $3,000 from a romance scammer, which is much higher than average loss amounts in the general public. And when the victim is older, that amount more than triples — those over 70 tend to lose over $10,000.

Difference Between Romance Scams and Catfishing

While you do similarly meet online, a romance scammer sets him or herself apart from a catfish by being just fine with video chatting. While a catfish is presenting a completely fake persona, a romance scammer only needs to cover up their circumstances, not necessarily their face.

The fact that they’re willing to show their face gives romance scammers an air of legitimacy that catfish don’t necessarily have. And being able to have you look directly into their bewitching eyes only helps in their approach to charm and dazzle you.

What Are Some Warning Signs of Romance Scams?

Now that you know a little more about romance scams, it’s a good idea to look into how you can avoid them. What are the telltale clues that someone is scamming you?

Near-Immediate Emotional Attachment

A romance scammer has to invest time into a relationship for the scam to pay off, but doesn’t want to spend any more time than necessary. So instead of building a relationship like a normal person would do, the scammer instead uses charm and trickery to hasten and magnify their victim’s attachment.

Essentially, the romance scammer tries to tie down the victim’s mind. The scammer’s ideal is to have their victim feel like a life without the scammer is pointless. That way, even if the victim starts noticing the way the scammer is bleeding the person dry, the victim is very unlikely to actually say anything or try to get away. At that point, the victim will create justifications without any additional input.

Frequent Monetary Emergencies

One of the ways romance scammers pull at their victim’s emotions is by declaring that they need money for an emergency. Romance scammers regularly use the concept of a monetary emergency because it can be genuinely life-ruining for low-income families. At the beginning, romance scammers tend to start with something small. Maybe someone ostensibly got the flu and has to go to the doctor. The scammer manages to convince the victim to send over a little bit of money, then slowly increases the amount of money.

Claiming that the person needs money from the victim specifically is another very insidious tactic. Romance scam targets are often naturally compassionate and trusting. These people would rather spend a significant amount of money than potentially be responsible for someone’s pain or death. It snowballs from there.

Claims of Travel and Overseas Living

If you date someone online for long enough you’re probably going to want to see that person in the flesh. But romance scammers won’t want to set up a face-to-face meetup, otherwise they risk exposing the lie. To avoid that, these scammers will instead tell stories about how they technically live in the United States, but currently work or stay in a country overseas. Maybe the romance scammer is “working as a doctor” or “on an extended business trip.”

Even scammers who don’t live internationally will often utilize this concept. It can easily provide a cover if the scammer has to message and call at strange times. An interesting common thread running through the stores is actually that romance scammers almost never expand upon this strange living situation. That usually stays under lock and key.

How Can I Avoid Romance Scams?

When you consider the emotional and financial damage they can cause, romance scams can be very scary. But now that you know about them, you can prepare yourself. What’s the best way to stay away from these scammers?

Never Send Money to Someone You Haven’t Met In-Person

When you’re up against a master manipulator, like many romance scammers, withholding funds can feel like a monumental task. But at the end of the day, it’s the best way to keep your money. You can always help people. But if an online significant other comes to you and says you’re the only person who can help, your alarm bells should immediately start blaring.

You might also be able to catch the person in a lie here. Romance scammers will often request money to buy certain things, rather than asking for you to purchase the thing. Suggest that you just pay for a plane ticket instead of sending the scammer $500 for the plane ticket, and watch the veneer melt a little.

Verify Potential Dates’ Identities

This is one of the most surefire ways to avoid catfish and scammers alike. With PeopleFinders, you can verify your dates’ identities and ensure that you don’t start dating a facade built to rob you of all your money.

All you have to do is try to perform a people search on the person in question. It’s pretty easy to do, even if you’re not very well-versed in the internet. You can then narrow down the search results using a variety of filters and find the exact person you think you’re talking to.

Don’t Be Afraid to Trust Your Gut

One of the biggest reasons why people fall into scammers’ traps is because many in the dating pool worry about “missing out” on the perfect relationship. They fear that they may be running out of time. But keep in mind that fear of missing out or feeling your biological clock ticking is not necessarily the best foundation for a happy relationship.

Ultimately, whether an online relationship is a verifiable romance scam, or just someone taking advantage of your generosity, you don’t have to stand for it. If you feel like something’s wrong, say something. Or break it off. Or, especially if you found something incriminating in PeopleFinders, talk to law enforcement and ensure this romantic scammer doesn’t scam anyone ever again.

What Are Romance Scams?