In a tech-savvy world, it is common for couples to meet online through dating websites or apps. Unfortunately, not everyone joining these dating platforms is looking for true love. The frequency of online romances has caught the attention of fraudsters who manipulate people seeking companionship through romance scams.
Make sure that your time on dating apps and websites doesn’t leave you with a broken heart and an empty bank account.
Today’s romance scams have a military flavor that you should learn how to identify. Fraudsters operating romance scams have recently taken to posing as members of the armed forces to lure their victims into a romance with what they believe to be a soldier. Pretending to be a member of the military allows fraudsters to quickly win an individual’s trust and admiration, while also providing a cover story as to why they cannot meet in person or converse over the phone or video chat.
This scam commonly begins on a social media platform, but it can also start through matching on an online dating website. After the impersonator has built up a rapport with their target and earned his or her trust, they will ask for money. The scammer will often claim the money will be used to cover transportation costs to go on leave, pay for medical fees, food or supplies, even pending marriage plans. In the end, this is all a lie, designed to rob the victim of their money.
Ways to identify if you are being targeted for a military scam
Falling for a military romance scam will drain you financially and emotionally. These tips from Western Union and the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Command will help you identify the red flags when you are speaking with a scammer.
- Asking for money. A request for money is the largest red flag of a potential scam. One of the most common cases involves the “love interest” asking the victim to send them money for transportation fees to return home or temporary leave. Remember, all transportation of deployed military members is funded by the government. Scammers will often start small with a plea for a smaller amount of money to see if you are receptive, then work their way up to asking for much larger sums. You should also avoid situations where you are asked to send money to a third party or business for any reason.
- Too good to be true. You shouldn’t take anyone at face value. If the person that you are communicating with is so attractive that your relationship seems almost too good to be true- that could be because it is. Tedious as it may seem, conduct extensive research on the person you are corresponding with. Find out where they’re from, where they claim to be stationed, and any other “personal” details they have mentioned in previous conversations. If you find something seems off, it could indicate a scam. Don’t be afraid to search online for photos they send you. It could be an image they stole from another website or from someone else’s social media account.
- Watch their lingo. Have you spoken to this person on the phone or has all communication taken place through emails and texts? If you met the person on a dating website, be cautious if they are quick to request moving away from the site to another channel- they may be trying to erase their trail. Pay attention to small details- see if their slang matches up with the region that they claim to be from.
- Take your time. Advance your relationship at a pace that is comfortable to you. Be alert if the person you are communicating with professes their love much too soon. Their goal could be to move you along as quickly as possible so they can take your money and find their next victim.
Protecting yourself from the online romance scam
Scammers take advantage of well-meaning, intelligent people all the time. If you’ve sent money to someone via Western Union and suspect you’ve been scammed, report it immediately by visiting WU.com/fraudawareness.