IDAHO — The pandemic has increased the popularity of online dating websites and apps as people hope to meet that special someone, but unfortunately, you could "match" with a con artist.
Rebecca Barr from the Better Business Bureau says here in Idaho, BBB Scam Tracker reports show people are being approached and falling victim to romance scams more often. One local woman reported losing more than $1,000 at the end of 2020 in a romance scam.
"She thought she was in a two-month relationship with someone who was claiming to be a soldier, of course, overseas," says Barr. "She started getting requests from this man for things like a new iPad, new computer equipment, and then the stories just kept getting more elaborate and the money requests still came through."
Barr says these romance scammers can be very convincing. Most of the stories start with fake profiles on online dating sites or social media, created by stealing photos and information from real accounts or elsewhere.
Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can't meet you in person.
"Typically there's always a reason why they can't meet in person beyond the pandemic, but usually they're overseas or out of state. Sometimes they claim they can't do video meetings because their camera just isn't up to par, and then they want to move the relationship very quickly," Barr explains.
Barr adds scammers try to build a bond quickly through photo exchanges, romantic messages, or talking on the phone so they can ask for money earlier, and there's usually some type of family or medical emergency as the reason why they're asking for money. After you send the cash, there's usually another money request, followed by another, or they stop communicating altogether.
So how can those hoping to swipe right on a connection make sure to swipe left on a potential scam?
"A lot of these types of scams start with copying real photos from real profiles, and they also have tales of financial success so between the photos and their background, if it's too good to be true, give it a second look. You should also be wary of any type of relationship that's also moving too fast," Barr says. "A lot of times these scammers will want to take the conversation off of the dating app and into either text messages or chat, and in this instance from the local woman, they went onto Google Hangouts and away from the app."
Lastly, Barr says if the relationship is moving too fast and all of a sudden they need money, your red flags should raise. It's also a good idea to do a reverse Google Image search to see if pictures are being used across other profiles.
For more ways to keep your information safe, click here.