Fundamentally, a romance scam has two parts. The first is to gain a victim’s trust by cultivating a fake romantic relationship. Next, the victim is convinced to send money, invest, or help someone financially.
ROMANCE SCAMMERS USE SOCIAL ENGINEERING
Romance scammers are experts at what they do and will appear genuine, empathetic, and believable. Cons can occur in person, on the phone, online, in an email, through video chat, on social media, or on a dating website. Scammers may create stories so they can relate to you, utilizing social engineering to find out more about you, and use your vulnerabilities against you.
ROMANCE SCAMS SEEM GENUINE
Romance scammers attempt to establish a relationship 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. With social engineering, romance scammers will obtain information online so they can fake similar interests, hobbies, and values to develop a connection with you. Eventually, and after they develop a rapport with you, they will ask for money in a variety of ways.
EXAMPLES OF ROMANCE 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 a victim’s 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 will ask you to wire funds.
- Some romance scams happen in person. 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, caregiver, grandchild or other relative.
WARNING SIGNS THAT YOU ARE BEING SCAMMED
- Oftentimes, scammers state they are working on projects outside of the state you live in. 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 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 are pushy or nosy about your finances.
- Once the relationship is established, they may ask for a loan or gift by wire transfer, gift cards, or even cash.
- 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.
WHAT A ROMANCE SCAMMER MAY SAY
- I am sick, hurt, in the hospital, or in jail.
- My family member is sick, hurt, in the hospital, or in jail.
- Let me help you invest by growing your money, purchasing real estate (like an island), with a person I know, etc.
- I am in the military or on a ship or in a different country.
- I want to send you a special gift.
- Let’s talk about marriage (although you have never met).
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.
Never send Cryptocurrency, Gift Cards, Wires or money transfers, or use a payment app or service to someone you have never met in person.
HOW TO REPORT A ROMANCE SCAM
- Stop communicating with the individual immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust and describe what’s going on.
- Report the incident to local law enforcement.
- If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, wire transfer, credit or debit card, or cryptocurrency, contact the company or Pearl Hawaii right away.
- If you think it’s a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Notify the social networking site or app where you met the scammer.
HOW TO GET HELP
The sooner you act and report scams, the better the chance you’ll have of intercepting any stolen funds.
- 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.
- 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.
MORE AT PEARL HAWAII
- What Is Identity Theft?
- Guard Against Multi-Factor Authentication Scams
- Beware of Romance Scams
- What is Financial Elder Abuse? Understanding Finacial Exploitation
- Improve Account Security With Transaction Alerts
- Your Account Security & Regulation E
- Protecting Yourself From Social Media Scams
- The Art of Social Engineering
- Protecting Yourself From Online Crime | Phishing, Smishing, and Vishing
- Online Security For Your Accounts
- Pearl Wallet | Protect You And Your Cards
- Internet Crime Complaint Center
- Federal Trade Commission
- 10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud
- FTC: Privacy, Identity & Online Security
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS): Scams Targeting Taxpayers
- Tips for Safe Gift Card Use: Retail Gift Card Association
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- The Department of Justice
Building trust, nurturing dreams, inspiring hope. From home or car loans to Hawaii’s most innovative banking services, Pearl Hawaii is committed to you. Bank at any of our Oahu locations in Waipahu, Ewa Beach, Waianae, Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, or near the Airport. Additionally, you can bank using PHFCUOnline just like one of our branches. To contact us, call us at 808.737.4328, toll-free at 800.987.5583, or email us at MyFamily@phfcu.com.