Do not friend or connect with a scammer this Valentine’s Day! International private investigation companies advise that even though looking for love online can be fun, it can also lead to heartbreak and bankruptcy, as scammers look to exploit vulnerable people around Valentine’s Day.
The romance scam industry works in many ways like other industries, even though it is a criminal operation. There are low seasons and high seasons where the business opportunities thrive. In this context, Valentine’s Day is usually a peak for online romance criminals as their potential victims are more vulnerable than ever. Feeling lonely around these days is not uncommon, and the need for companionship (even if it’s virtual) may prevent victims from spotting the red flags.
How do online romance scams work?
One of the most important things to understand in the online romance scam cases is that everything has been carefully studied by the fraudsters who are criminals targeting victims online. From the profile of the victim -usually a senior or recently divorced or widowed- to the timing and the strategy. Traditionally scammers meet their victims on dating sites or apps because this ensures the victim was looking for someone special, an easy target. However, social media has overtaken online dating sites as the most common way for dating and romance scammers to contact potential victims, which is why accepting friend requests or engaging in conversations with strangers is a dangerous move! Facebook and Instagram have many fake profiles that leave victims broke and heartbroken.
Romance scammers groom their targeted victim for weeks, months and even years. In many cases they will ask to move the conversation to email, text or instant messaging in order to avoid detection. They take their time to get to know the victim well and understand their interests and motivations, and then work on using this information in their favor. Developing trust is the criminal’s weapon. Often, making plans to meet and sharing grand declarations of love is part of the game.
Scammers establish a sense of trust and intimacy throughout their conversation, but their true intention is to request money to cover a range of claimed expenses. Among the most common excuses are legal and medical emergencies, business investments, or a plane ticket and visa arrangements.
By this point, the victim is usually so invested in the relationship that they do not even question whether something could be wrong, even resisting when family and friends alert them.
How to avoid being scammed this Valentine’s Day?
Prevention is the key. Unfortunately, as with other scams, once you lose money it is very difficult to get it back. An online dating verification is the best method to impede a criminal from getting away with a scam. A thorough dating background check provides evidence of whether the person you met is really who they claim to be, or just someone trying to take advantage of your vulnerability.
If you met someone recently via Facebook, Instagram or a dating app, don’t just hope for the best and forget to protect yourself. Hire an investigator to obtain the evidence and keep you safe!
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