Left swipe on online romance scams

Chocolate hearts, flowers, teddy bears and Valentine’s Day cards line the shelves of stores each February. However online, heart emojis and thoughtful messages make their way into inboxes – and sometimes, online romance scams too.

According to Statista.com, over 32 million Americans are starting their relationships online by using online dating services like eHarmony and Match. And, according to the National Cybersecurity Alliance, tens of thousands of internet users fall victim to online romance scams each year.

Online romance scams appeal to victims’ emotions and personal connections. Fake online profiles that take profile photos, names and details from others to create an attractive and convincing persona are common methods of online romance scammers. These scammers also utilize these methods on social media sites in an attempt to steal large amounts of money and even personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission reported that the highest rates of victims that fall prey to losing money to online romance scams included people between the ages of 40 and 69. However, individuals over the age of 70 reported the highest individual average losses at $10,000.

To help stay safe while online, it’s important to ask questions like “How or why a scammer might target me?” and “What information could a scammer use to target me?”

Follow these tips to avoid any online romance scams this Valentine’s Day:

  • Send a GIF, not a gift or money. Avoid sending money or gifts to someone you have never met in person. Avoid falling for urgent requests like money for a plane ticket or medical expenses. Ask your financial institution for their advice and recommendations.
  • Ask for advice from friends or family. The thought of a new relationship can be exciting; however, pay attention to what your friends and family members have to say.
  • Ask questions and look for answers that might be inconsistent. Try a Google search to see if any of their details don’t match up or if their profile photograph belongs to someone else.

If you see something, say something. Take note of any information that may identify the scammer, such as email address, IP address or other information that might be displayed in their profile. Help stop online scams from taking place by reporting suspicious profiles or messages to the dating or social media site. Once reported, contact the FTC at FTC.gov/complaint.

If you think that you’ve fallen victim of a scam, contact your bank or credit card company. To learn more about scams and security tips, visit www.unisonbank.com/security-tips or call Unison Bank at (701) 253-5600.