Dating or being defrauded? How romance scams target hopeless romantics

Many hopeless romantics may be rushing to find a valentine with Valentine’s Day being right around the corner, but they may not be aware that romance scammers are looking to prey on lonely widows and singles. 

A record $547 million was lost to romance scams in the United States last year according to Social Catfish, a California-based online investigation service. 

The FBI defines a romance scam as a type of fraudulent activity that occurs when a criminal, typically using an online dating platform, gains the trust of a victim through affection and romantic allure in order to steal money or personal information from them. 

"The scammer’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain trust. Scammers may propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen. Eventually, they will ask for money," read a portion of the FBI's website.

According to Social Catfish, these are the best tips to avoid romance scammers:

  1. Never give money to anyone you meet online.
  2. Perform a reverse image search to see if their picture matches their name. 
  3. Demand a video chat or an in-person date.
  4. Watch out for poor grammar.
  5. Be suspicious when someone confesses their love immediately having never met you.

Here are the top 5 states where romance scams occur the most: 

  1. California
  2. Florida
  3. Texas
  4. New York
  5. Washington

In response to the prevalence of these types of trickery, Match Group Inc., the parent company of popular dating apps Tinder, Hinge and Match, has rolled out a new campaign to warn and inform daters about online romance scams. 

The company said on Jan. 10 that users across Tinder, Hinge, Match, Plenty of Fish, Meetic and OurTime in more than 15 countries would begin to receive messages alerting them to tips and common behaviors to watch out for to help identify possible online fraud.

The tips were created with the assistance of law enforcement and financial exploitation experts. They'll be displayed via an in-app message on Tinder and Meetic, whereas Match, Hinge, Plenty of Fish and OurTime users will be sent notifications.