Online Romance Scams Ramp Up For V-day

Online romance scams are big business and scammers make big money faking romance and duping unsuspecting Americans of millions of dollars every year. With a surge in online dating around Valentine’s Day, it’s an ideal time for scammers to thrive. As Valentine’s Day rolls around, don’t be left broke and brokenhearted, be aware of these common Valentine’s Day online scams:

• Catfishing—you’ve probably heard about catfishing before and wondered how people could be so naïve but these con artists are savvy. Scammers create dating profiles on legitimate dating websites, through social media and by email with the intent of bilking money for financial gain. These scammers prey on those looking for love, especially around Valentine’s Day, profess their love very quickly and start requesting money to be wired for various reasons (a plane ticket to visit, an emergency, etc.). Be smart—never send money for any reason.

• Online Valentine’s Day Deals—a suitor can also take a backdoor approach and use your email address to send you a Valentine’s Day eCard containing hyperlinks that cause a breach of your personal information and contacts. Never open an eCard from an online suitor or anyone else you many not recognize. They could also use your information to try and sell you fake flowers, chocolates, jewelry and more.

• Sextortion—one of the newest forms of online dating scams has been coined “sextortion.” An online dater convinces another online dater to send compromising and intimate photos after developing a fake online relationship. Then the scammer extorts money from the victim by threatening to release the photos and videos. Victims are usually too embarrassed to alert authorities and keep the situation to themselves. These scams can go on for months and affects women, men and even senior citizens.

How to Protect Yourself from Online Dating Scams:

  • Scam artists will find many excuses such as work, family illness or shared custody as to their inability to meet in person or set a date to meet then cancel. Only accept messages from matches within a reasonable distance from you. There is no good reason to start a relationship with someone you will have a hard time meeting in person.
  • It’s a big red flag if your online interest asks you for money, especially if it is early on and if you’ve never met face-to-face. Scammers will often ask for money on behalf of a sick relative, a short term loan to pay rent, or travel money to visit you if he lives out of state.
  • When chatting online, make sure the flow of conversation makes sense to ascertain if you’re talking to a live person or a robot profile. Mix up the conversation; see if the person continues to track with you. If they are unable to switch gears, it could be a robot responder giving predetermined responses.
  • If your date’s profile has very limited information and contains only one photo, that could be a sign that you’re dealing with a scam artist. People who don’t want to be held accountable to the content of their profile will simply leave it blank. If they are too lazy to take the time to self-disclose and post some self-descriptive text, then you should probably take a pass.  Similarly, be suspicious if the person has fewer than 100 friends unless it’s someone older.
  • Most people bend the truth a little so decide where you draw the line. On-line daters want to put their foot forward. Men may say they are a couple of inches taller than they are in reality, and women may not accurately describe their body type. Many on-line daters accept superficial lies as part of the deal. Decide what is acceptable for you.
  • After an initial getting to know each other period, arrange to meet in person at a public place for a low-risk first date. If you encounter continual resistance to meeting in person, treat this as a red flag and move on.
  • Confirm your match’s key information through online searches and if you’re especially concerned, consider an online background check service. Doing so can confirm that your love interest’s name matches his or her photo, address and social media profiles.  In addition, it can help you determine if your date owns a gun, has financial problems, a violent criminal record or been issued quite a few speeding tickets, owes child support or is still married.

Justin Lavelle is the Chief Communications Officer for, a leading source of online background checks and contact information. It allows individuals to find more information about people, phone numbers, email addresses, property records, and criminal records in a way that’s fast, easy, and affordable. The company helps people discover, understand, and use public data in their everyday lives.