Romance Scams: Guarding Your Heart and Wallet

What are romance scams and why are they on the rise?

Valentine’s Day is here, which means many of us are celebrating the day with our significant others.

Unfortunately, this annual holiday can lead to a surge in romance scams for those searching online for their valentine. Romance scams are simple enough in concept and execution, scammers target legitimate users searching for that special someone online for financial gain.

After developing trust through constant communications, the scammers will find a reason to ask for financial assistance. If the "relationship" is long distance, perhaps they pretend to need gas money or an airplane ticket to finally meet in person – or, if they have built a fake story around their sick relative, perhaps it’s healthcare emergency funds.

While this may seem hard to believe, these scams are extremely successful. Just last year, nearly 70,000 people reported encountering romance scams to the FTC, with losses totaling nearly $1.3 billion – which is a huge increase over the reported $547 million lost to romance scams in 2021.

Romance Scams Red Flags

So, how can you protect yourself from romance scams? Here are a few red flags to look for when communicating with others online.

  • Asking For Money – regardless of the backstory or length of communications, being asked for money prior to meeting in person is an immediate danger sign. Whether you are being asked send funds via cash transfer apps, wires, gift cards or crypto, the only thing you should do is report and block them.
  • Urgency – along with monetary requests comes the story of why. They may claim they have medical, family or personal emergencies. In fact, some may take the time to discuss a sick relative throughout conversations to lay the groundwork  for the ask. Remember, the more urgent the request is, the more likely you are being scammed.
  • Breadcrumbing – have you been talking to a potential partner for weeks, but there’s always a reason they can’t meet in person? While breadcrumbing, which is a term used for online dating conversations that never develop in-person, is not always a scam, it’s a telltale sign that whoever you’re talking to has no intention of making a meaningful connection.

In addition to those telltale signs, you can use search engines to validate the legitimacy of people through public databases, reverse image searches and even copying/pasting profiles to see if they are using the same story somewhere else.

If you suspect you are being scammed, cut off communication immediately and report them to the website you met on to help protect others. You can also report romance scams on the FTC Report Fraud portal at

With dating networks in full marketing mode during the holiday season and Valentine’s Day, it’s easy to understand how those looking for love can get stuck in a romance scam – but don’t let your search for love leave your heart broken and wallet empty. And if you suspect your friends may be involved in a romance scam, say something before it’s too late.

Love can be blinding, even to the best of us.

About Schneider Downs Cybersecurity

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