Person holding phone, pressing heart on a dating website

Warning Signs of a Romance Scam

Written by Nichole Dennis, Program Director & Government Relations Specialist at CSN

In the modern world of dating, starting a relationship with someone you meet online is becoming incredibly common. People of all ages are online looking for love, companionship and connection. Unfortunately, the popularity of online dating has attracted bad actors who want to take advantage of people looking to make a personal connection. While con-artists are nothing new, the internet has made it easier for someone to adopt a fake persona. So, how can you be sure that what your suitor is telling you is true? Look out for these warning signs of a romance scam.

What does a romance scammer look like? 

Their photos are attractive but believable. The pictures they send frequently involve them in uniform for the profession that they claim to have (soldiers, doctors, oil rig, construction uniforms) and often are selfies or solo, posed pictures.

They don’t have a ‘normal’ social media presence. Their profile has few or no friends and lacks photos with family or friends. Also look out for:

  • The profile having little to no details about their life
  • The profile only including the same few pictures they have sent you
  • Multiple profiles with multiple names and the same photos
  • Social media and dating profiles appear and disappear numerous times

They immediately have a lot in common with you. Before you have a chance to get to know each other they quickly attempt to demonstrate that you have shared interests. The similarities may directly line up with your online profile. Examples include: 

  • Identifying with your divorce, widow status or loss of a loved one
  • Being a single parent and having a child that needs a mother/father
  • Declaring the same interests, hobbies, and values
  • Claims to be religious and using references to God, prayer, and Bible verses

What does a romance scammer sound like? 

They call, text, and email daily to check in to establish trust. Pay attention to their tone, accent and grammatical errors, and take note if it feels like you are talking to multiple people.

They profess love early on and are very charming, thoughtful. They use intense flattery and constant compliments, oftentimes making future plans for marriage and lifelong plans. You may notice that their declarations of love seem scripted.

They say they are from the US but are currently living out of the country, usually for their job. They may allege that they were born in another country, raised overseas or have dual citizenship. Common job descriptions include: 

  • Doctors Without Borders
  • Oil rig workers
  • Active military
  • Deep sea fishing boat captains
  • Construction workers

Their messages don’t make sense, and are unclear, vague or inconsistent. Take note of what they’re saying and if it matches what is on their profile. For example, their profile will say that they are from a certain city in the US, but they may later state they are from somewhere else.

They share stories of bad luck like medical emergencies or car troubles that they need financial help with.

They ask for money especially in the form of gift cards, wire transfers or cryptocurrency, to help with customs fees, traveling expenses or gambling debts and claim they will face violence or jail time if they are unable to pay. They might cut off communication until they send money.

They want to open joint banking accounts, credit cards or bitcoin purses and ask about your finances and financial situation.

They ask for identifying information in order for you to gain something such as  a gift, requesting things like your home address, Social Security number or bank account information.

What does a romance scammer do? 

They want to move away from communicating on the social media or dating site you met on. They might ask you to download a different app so that you can message or talk on the phone.

To prove that they are telling the truth they provide documentation including passports, drivers licenses, student ids, or military documents.

They delay video chatting or meeting in person and oftentimes make excuses about why they can’t make it.

Remember these scammers are professionals and adopting this fake persona is their full time job. If you’re looking for love online, think about what you are sharing on your profile and on social media. Trust your instincts: if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Our most important piece of advice for safe online dating is to be open to meeting new people and be closed off to requests for money.

If you or someone you know finds themself involved in a romance scam, reach out to a friend, family member or counselor who can help with the emotional difficulties. CSN offers a FREE Peer Support Program for those impacted by romance scams. Click here to learn more.