Beware Romance Scams! How To Identify Financial Fraud Red Flags

Protect yourself against romance scams by identifying common fraud methods used to deceive you into parting with your cash.

In this digital age, love scams have become as ubiquitous as memes, making it essential to hone your abilities to discern genuine connections from fraudulent schemes. While you might assume how to spot a scam would be obvious, hold the judgment.

The reality is that the lines blur when emotions are involved, and these love scams hit HARD. According to the FTC's Consumer Sentinel Data Book, romance scams generated losses totaling $1.14 billion in 2023–with a median loss of $2,000 per victim—underscoring the harsh reality that once entangled in the web of a dating scam, the financial fallout can be severe.


If you come across any of these 12 common fraud scenarios, report the person as a scammer, and DO NOT ENGAGE. You may accidentally give away information you didn’t even think was valuable. Everything you say to a scammer gives them the opportunity to personalize their ruse. 


“I need money ASAP! My grandma fell ill overseas, and I can’t afford her surgery.”

According to the FTC, 24% of reported romance scams in 2022 played the sympathy card. Life can throw a lot of awful scenarios at a person, but If your online sweetheart's story sounds like a daytime soap opera, and they suddenly need cash for an emergency visa, medical bills, or to come visit you, click the red X to close out on that red flag.


“Trust me, I doubled my investment in crypto last month. It was so easy. I can show you how.”

Beware the digital Don Juan who claims they've struck gold with investments, especially if cryptocurrency is their love language. A staggering 18% of scammers in 2022 spun this yarn. Their promise? To make you as wealthy as they are. The reality? The only thing they'll inflate is their wallet–with your cash. Say goodbye to them and hello to your savings security.


“I’ve just inherited a huge sum of money but need to pay legal fees to claim it. Can you help me?”

This one is a classic scam that involves the scammer claiming they’ve come into a large inheritance but need money to unlock it, often citing legal fees or other expenses. It’s a direct play on your sympathy, exploiting the victim’s generosity and providing the allure of shared wealth.


“Here’s a photo of me, but I’m too busy saving babies in the war zone to take any new ones.”

They’re not in a war zone. They’re not saving anyone. They’re creating a victim: YOU. Do a quick reverse image search to avoid online dating scams, and you’ll probably find that Beautiful Brunette Barbara is really Stock Photo Sally.

Also, with the boom in AI, check for faces that are free of any blemishes or wrinkles. AI still has a hard time with eyes and hands too. Be skeptical and you may save yourself a lot of heartache and depleted accounts. 


“Let’s keep our relationship just between us for now. I don’t want anyone to ruin what we have.”

Financial fraudsters, especially romance scammers, are parasitic vampires that thrive in the shadows. They don’t want you to go telling your friends and family about your love affair because an isolated target is easier to ensnare and drain. If your Count is counting on your secrecy, it’s probably because being brought into the light would turn them to dust. Count them out.


“I don’t have a lot of friends and family, and the ones I do aren’t on social media.”

Scammers often create multiple fake accounts on social media, and a dead giveaway is when their profile looks like a ghost town. No tags, comments, or, you know, actual friends. If their digital life seems too curated or pretty empty, you might be dealing with a catfish prepping for a scam. Don’t get hooked.


“I feel a deep connection to you already, even though we just started chatting. I think you’re my soulmate.”

The desire for connection is exploited by scammers that will claim an instant, deep emotional bond. They’ll rush your relationship to cloud your judgment and create a false sense of intimacy and trust that leads to manipulation and financial exploitation. Unfortunately, you won’t be left unfazed once the lavender haze is lifted. 


“I wish I could be there with you, but I’m currently deployed in a classified area.” 

Overseas deployment and a top-secret mission on an oil rig is major scammer scripting. Excuses for not meeting in real life can range from totally absurd to highly realistic. If they do agree to meet in person, make sure the rendezvous is in public and you’ve told a friend or family member where you’ll be. But let’s be real–do you honestly think someone whose job description sounds like a Mission: Impossible movie is likely to be looking for love on social media? 


“Check out this song -  [insert phishy link here]. It describes exactly how I feel about us.”

Scammers will often send links to phishing sites or malware, disguising them as something benign or romantic. These links can compromise your personal and financial information, as well as the security of your devices. It’s a digital sleight of hand, and the misdirection will direct you to identity theft and financial fraud.


“I need to know where you are and who you’re talking to at all times to keep you safe. I love you, and I can’t take care of you if you don’t share your account info with me.”

In an attempt to isolate their victims from potential help or a second opinion that might reveal the scam, these scammers will exhibit controlling behaviors. They may demand constant communication, get upset if you can't talk or meet immediately, or insist on having access to your personal accounts, devices, even to being added to your bank account so they can “help you manage your finances better”. Just say NO.


“I booked us a suite on a cruise next month! But the bank delayed the transfer. Can you cover it, and I’ll pay you back on Monday?”

Oh, what a lavish life they lead, when first thieves practice to deceive. These scammers lure you with extravagant trips and gifts, but their so-called “wealth” is just a manipulation tactic to gain your trust and convince you to lend them money to cover a minor setback. They’ll promise to pay you back, but the lie detector test determines that it’s a lie.


“I’ll send you whatever proof you need right away.” - Followed by complete radio silence.

Frauds and scams are built on the back of ignorance. The people perpetrating them are counting on you to not push back, to not pay enough attention, to not question their “unwavering devotion” to you. The moment you request concrete evidence of anything–their identity, situation, or claims–they’ll pull a Houdini. This disappearing act is a clear indicator that their intentions were always that of deception.


Everyone. Even you, wise soul. Romance scammers cast a wide net, targeting anyone with a pulse and a dollar. Regardless of your digital experience, keep your guard up and your skepticism handy. Remember, the only thing you should be losing in a new romance is your single status, not your financial security.

So, swipe left on scammers, and who knows? Your next right swipe might just be the real deal. Stay safe, stay skeptical, and let love (the genuine kind) prevail!

Protect your identity while monitoring your credit for free with Credit Sense through your online account.

March 19, 2024

Published by SunWest Credit Union

published by