In this two-part podcast AARP’s The Perfect Scam takes a deep look inside a romance scam through the eyes of a grandmother who fell victim. Annie, a widow, looks to avoid loneliness by seeking a platonic friend through an online dating site. After some time she meets Mark, a widower and architect living in California. Annie believes she's found the perfect friend, but in reality she is being lured into an elaborate romance scam.
Romance Scam Warning Signs
- Your new romantic interest sends you a picture that looks more like a model from a fashion magazine than an ordinary snapshot.
- The person quickly wants to leave the dating website and communicate with you through email or instant messaging.
- He or she lavishes you with attention. Swindlers often inundate prospective marks with texts, emails and phone calls to draw them in.
- He or she repeatedly promises to meet you in person but always seems to come up with an excuse to cancel.
- Do take it slowly. Ask your potential partner a lot of questions, and watch for inconsistencies that might reveal an impostor.
- Do check the photo, using Google’s “search by image” feature. If the same picture shows up elsewhere with a different name attached to it, that’s a sign a scammer may have stolen it.
- Do be wary of flirtatious and overly complimentary emails. Paste the text into a search engine and see whether the same words show up on websites devoted to exposing romance scams.
- Do cut off contact immediately if you begin to suspect that the individual may be a swindler.
- Do notify the dating site or the maker of the dating app on which you met the scammer.
- Don’t feel a false sense of safety because you’re the one who made first contact. Scammers flood dating websites with fake profiles and wait for victims to come to them.
- Don’t reveal too much personal information in a dating profile or to someone you’ve chatted with only online. Scammers can exploit details like your last name or where you work to manipulate you or to commit identity theft.
- Don’t ever give an online acquaintance intimate photos that could later be used for extortion.
- Don't send cash to someone you've chatted with only online or put money on a reloadable gift card for the person — you’ll never get it back.