Love Hurts: Tips for Dealing with Romance Scams

Woman getting tricked by a catfishing scammer - one of many romance scams out there.

If you’re a frequent reader of the FFCCU blog, you know by now that financial scammers are clever, adaptable, and completely without shame. The latest scheme is always around the corner, and old stand-bys get a fresh coat of nefarious paint as technology advances or changes come to the way we live our lives and interact.

Romance scams have been around for a long time but have become a widespread problem in the last decade. With online dating, connections through social media, and advances in machine learning tools (AI) that can imitate voices or write dialogue, it’s easier than ever for criminals to impersonate a charming suitor in an attempt to steal from you. The name is funny, but catfishing and similar scams are no joke.

This week, we’re doing a deep dive into the down-side of digital dating with the help of the National Cybersecurity Alliance. Our online relationships can be a crucial part of fighting loneliness and other mental health burdens by keeping us connected to loved ones and giving us easily accessed avenues to meet friends or romantic interests. That said, you need to protect your identity (and your wallet) as well as your heart when seeking a love connection through your internet connection. The following advice will keep you on your guard against any criminal cupids lurking on the web:



Almost a third of Americans report using online dating services or apps, according to a recent Pew survey, and 10% of people in a relationship said that they met their partner online. These stats are even higher (though hardly exclusive!) for younger people. Unfortunately, all this online romance poses opportunities that unscrupulous scammers want to exploit. Americans reported losing a heartbreaking $1.3 billion to romance scams in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission, and the number is likely higher due to underreporting.



Romance scams are also called sweetheart scams and catfishing (or catphishing) – any of these terms refer to scams involving online dating. Essentially, a bad actor creates a fake online profile, fires up the charm, and attempts to stir up romantic interests in potential victims. After courting their mark, the scammer eventually asks for money.



Romance scammers try to be as convincing as possible, which can now include using artificial intelligence-powered deepfake video or audio technology. Still, many cybercriminals follow recognizable schemes. Look out for some red flags when cybersurfing for love:

  • The person requests money for urgent matters, such as medical expenses or a plane ticket to see you. It can be extremely risky to send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • The person requests hard-to-track forms of payment, like pre-loaded gift cards.
  • The person claims to live far away from you, often in a foreign country. They might also say they are in the military and serving overseas.
  • The person breaks promises to see you in person.
  • The person wants to push the conversation from the dating app to other messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram.
  • The relationship feels like it is moving very fast.



If you suspect you or a loved one are the victim of a romance scams, take action:

  • Immediately stop communicating with the scammer.
  • Note any identifiable information you may have on them, such as their email address or

phone number. Take screenshots and write down any contact information.

  • Contact your credit union or credit card company immediately if you’ve been scammed out of money.
  • File a report with your local police department.
  • Report the scam to the FTC and the FBI.
  • Alert the website, platform, or app where you met the scammer. They might have more

information on the scammer that can help investigators.



By adopting a few privacy habits, you can limit what scammers can learn about you:

  • Share with care: Think before posting about yourself and others on social media or online dating services. Consider what a post reveals and who can see it.
  • Check your settings: Consider setting your social media profiles to “private.” This makes it harder for scammers to target and communicate with you.
  • Think before you click: Be wary of messages that push you for immediate action or ask for personal information. This is a red flag for phishing. Never share personal info via email or text if you do not know the sender.
  • Use reverse image search: Do a reverse image search of a flirty account’s profile picture. You may see that the image belongs to a completely different person or has been affiliated with different online identities. If this is the case, there is a high chance the person behind the fake profile picture is trying to scam you.