Beware of Romance Scams
Romance scams are on the rise. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), consumers reported losing a record $547 million to scams in 2021. The amount consumers reported losing to romance scammers is up nearly 80 percent compared to 2020. The total reported loss over the past five years has now reached $1.3 billion. The median loss reported to the FTC for romance scams is 10 times higher than the median loss across all other frauds.
Unquestionably, romance scams have become an increasing problem. With this type of scam, the victim is manipulated out of large sums of money over a long period of time.
WHAT IS A ROMANCE SCAM?
Essentially, a romance scam occurs when a fraudster creates a fake identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and steal from the victim. Romance scammers are experts at what they do and will appear genuine, empathetic, and believable. Cons can occur in person, on the phone, online, or through video chat. Scammers may create stories so they can relate to you, utilizing social engineering to find more about you, and use your vulnerabilities against you.
ROMANCE SCAMS ON DATING AND SOCIAL MEDIA SITES
Online romance scammers can connect with people through social media, dating apps, video chat, instant messaging, chat rooms, subreddits, websites, blogs, text messages, or email. Romance scammers attempt to establish a relationship quickly and gain a victim’s trust. They develop a relationship by building false personas that seem just real enough to be true. They may use their own photos or steal other people’s photos from social media websites. With social engineering, romance scammers will obtain information online so they can fake similar interests, hobbies, and values in order to develop a connection with you. Eventually and after they develop a rapport with you, your new friend asks for money in a variety of ways.
EXAMPLES OF SCAMS
Scams can occur in many ways. Mostly, it is dependent on what the con artist has learned about their victim. Overall, their goal is to get your money. Here are a few examples of scams that members have experienced…
- If they feel that you are empathetic, they may ask for a loan for some crisis they are going through.
- If the romance scammer knows you have feelings for them, they may state that they need money so they can see you.
- The con artist may start small by asking for a small monetary loan for a car repair or help to pay a medical bill to gauge the willingness to lend money. After the first few successful asks, the loan amounts may become higher.
- Some scams may involve identity theft, misuse of government benefits, or even money laundering.
- In time and after they feel that they have won your trust, they will mention that they or a family member is in trouble and that they need money.
- The fraudster states that a friend or relative of yours is in trouble and that they need money to rescue your loved one. For example, your relative is traveling, which the fraudster learned from your social media feed. The fraudster will then contact you and say they are your relative’s friend, that they need your help immediately, and ask you to wire funds.
- Some romance scams happen in person. This financial exploitation could involve older adults who are socially isolated or dependent on others to assist them. The scammer could be a person you meet at places such as your church, community center, bar, or social group. Also, they could be your fiduciary or caregiver.
Always treat a wire transfer like it is cash. We are not able to stop the wire transfer once it is sent. Additionally, there is no guarantee that you can get your money returned. When a member reports that the transfer was a fraud, the money is usually gone and the account is closed. Also, the recipient (the fraudster) would have to authorize the withdrawal in order for your money to be returned.
WARNING SIGNS THAT YOU MAY BE SCAMMED
- Oftentimes, scammers state they are working on projects outside of the state you live in or the United States. They may live in another country, live in a country that you frequently travel to, in a country of your ethnic origin, in a place you dream of traveling to, a place where you have friends, or somewhere a friend or relative is currently traveling.
- Scammers may consistently “be working” so it’s easier for them to avoid meeting in person.
- They may even use a natural disaster, pandemic, or other current events as an excuse not to meet in person, which could keep their online scam going.
- A new friend or love interest may be overly complimentary and flirtatious and shower you with affection and overwhelm you with texts, emails, and phone calls.
- The scammer may suggest or insist that you keep the “relationship” a secret.
- You are pressured or hurried to share your private financial information or they seem pushy or nosy about your finances.
- Online romance scammers often say they can’t visit you in person because they are living or traveling outside of the country or work keeps them away. They may state that they are in the military, a doctor with an international organization, live on an oil rig, or work for any occupation that is known to travel frequently.
- Once the relationship is established, they may ask for a loan or gift by wire transfer, gift cards, or even cash.
- Their name may be unusual and unique.
- If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, they are most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes.
- You are promised money in return.
- Scammers may ask for gift cards or wire transfers, which are hard to trace.
HOW TO GET HELP
The sooner you act and report scams, the better the chance you’ll have of intercepting any stolen funds. If you think you are being scammed or have given, or sent, money to a scammer:
- Stop communicating with the person.
- Notify Pearl Hawaii immediately if you sent money or gave someone your banking information. Call us at 808.737.4328 or email MyFamily@phfcu.com.
- Talk to someone you trust (a family member, friends, or clergy).
- Report local in-person romance scams to local law enforcement.
- In most instances of suspected elder abuse and financial exploitation, you should contact Adult Protective Services. You can find information about reaching your local Adult Protective Services office at the Eldercare Locator or by calling 1-800-677-1116.
- Report online romance scams to FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Report all scams to the Federal Trade Commission
- For cases of identity theft, contact identitytheft.gov.