Lately, one alarming trend that is happening is that many Americans are becoming victims of romance scams. These scams are originating from West Africa. The scary thing is that you might not even realize that you are being scammed. These scammers are using legitimate websites. They are also using fake personas so that they can defraud people who are looking for legitimate relationships and love.
Scammers like to take advantage of those who are looking for love online through dating websites, social media platforms, or apps. These scammers actually are pretending that they would like to be your companion. This plays on emotional triggers which is why so many victims fall into the trap of sending money, gifts, and personal details.
Sadly, the victims are just trusting Americans who are trying to take their own chance of love. They are just being defrauded though so while they are falling in love, the scammer is sitting behind a screen not falling in love like they claim to be.
How Are People Scammed
If you have been unlucky with relationships in the past, you are probably drawn to the dating websites. This is a dangerous place to be for a number of reasons. Some people have fallen victim to brutal crimes by meeting people and others have fallen into the dangerous scams. One of the biggest places that scammers reside is in Africa.
Another name for these scams is catfishing. Here is how the scammers work. They basically will start talking with you. Then they will ask you to meet with them outside of the website that you are on. They will then start telling you horror stories about their lives that are actually lies. However, they are very believable. So, when the person says that they need money or a plane ticket to visit you, you feel obligated to send them the money. That is how it begins and if you are not careful they will milk you for thousands of dollars before you realize that they are playing you.
Protections for Victims of Romance Fraud
There is some protection for victims of romance fraud. It is actually a crime under the confidence fraud label. The FBI has an Internet Crime Complaint Center, which is known as IC3, who was able to find criminal confidence frauds that totaled nearly $200 million in 2015 and over $1.3 billion in 2018. These crimes have been rapidly increasing along with other cyber-crimes. Looking at all cyber-crime, the total loss was more than $2.7 billion.
Red Flags and Reporting
The first thing that you can look at to protect yourself is when someone asks you for more. If someone is asking you for money in the first few conversations, that is a sign to you that you could be getting scammed. This is one of the biggest red flags that something is wrong. If you should have this happen to you, you should immediately report the scam to the IC3 via the website https://ic3.gov
The FBI will move forward in helping to ensure that the scammer is not able to scam anyone else.