February is the month we celebrate all that is wonderful about love and romance. It’s also a good time for a reminder that some criminals will, unfortunately, use these feelings as a foothold for fraud.
Romance scams are a form of fraud in which criminals form a connection, most often online, in order to take financial advantage of someone.
Here are few red flags that a love interest may actually be an opportunistic fraudster:
- They ask to meet in person, but always come up with an excuse to cancel.
- They may claim to be from a foreign country, or to be a U.S. citizen who happens to be traveling. This gives cover to continuing the relationship without a personal meeting.
- They are eager to leave a dating service or social platform, like Facebook, to “go offline.”
It may take some time, but if they are perpetrating a Romance Scam, they will get around to their real aim. Most of the time that is money, or eventual access to your account information. Another popular goal among criminals is to move money from illegal activities through your account to legitimize, or “clean,” it. Once they’ve discussed a financial plan with you, they might even warn you that your financial institution will not like the process. They will claim their proposal is completely legitimate and that the safety standards of your credit union or bank are unreasonably severe.
Successful criminals will make their requests seem perfectly reasonable. They want to come see you, but need money for travel. They want to give you a gift, but only need help paying the shipping or taxes. They may even first send you money to gain your trust and access to your account information. Perhaps they send you money to help you buy a car and, in turn, ask you to send some back to help them through a rough patch. It’s a red flag if they send you money and ask for a wire or gift card in exchange. This tactic helps hide the origin of funds that may have come from illegal activity.
It’s a double betrayal to become a victim of fraud and have your heart broken at the same time. We want to help you avoid this altogether, but if you suspect you may already be involved in something that’s not quite as it seems to be, come see us. Fighting fraud is something we do every day. If you have questions about the legitimacy of any type of financial transaction, we can help you identify patterns and red flags, or set your mind at ease. If we do confirm you have been targeted by fraud we can help you change your account password and help you get started if you’d like to file a report.