Cyberspace is filled with all kinds of scammers eager to trick people into their fraudulent schemes and extort money from their targets. Not surprisingly, online dating scam is at the top of the total reported losses. As per the Federal Trade Commission data, $201 million were reported to have lost to romance scams in 2019.
Romance scammers are active on matrimonial and online dating sites, apps, or social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. They lure people using fake profiles and portray a convincing persona to gain people’s trust and instigate a romantic relationship.
They take their time, often chatting for months to seem genuinely interested in the relationship and get close enough to their targets to get personal information comfortably. They formulate stories about having a medical emergency or a misfortune to pull people’s heartstrings to eventually trick them into sending money.
On top of ending with a broken heart and an empty wallet, the victims are ashamed to tell about the scam to their friends and family members.
Many Non-resident Indians (NRIs), both men, and women fall victim to such online dating and romance scams. While there are many reputed Indian matrimonial sites such as Shaadi, Bharat Matrimonial, Jeevansathi, etc. and a few more like Lovevivah, Desijodi, and Life Partner that specifically caters to NRI communities. Scams are not specific to matrimonial or dating sites.
The victims are mostly women who are divorced or widowed looking for potential companions on dating websites or NRI grooms searching for brides on online matrimonial sites like Shaadi.com, Bharat Matrimonial, Jeevansathi, etc . There have been several reports of matrimony fraud in which the victims were duped of crores of rupees in the pretext of marriage.
Although people who turn to online dating to meet new people are aware of scammers, many of them often miss the warning signs of romance scams.
How to spot a romance scammer?
- They fall in love with you in a short period of time, without actually meeting you in person. They use this tactic to get intimate and force you into sharing personal details.
- They are quick to propose marriage and promise long-term relationships.
- They are interested in your financial status from the get-go.
- They shower you with compliments and flattery to gain your approval.
- They always have some dramatic circumstances for which they need money. They have excuses for not having money like the inability to access their bank account or family conflicts. Anything to gain your sympathy.
- They try to move you away from dating sites to more private communication channels like phone or email.
- They seem eager to meet you and make travel plans but something always comes up at the last minute for them to cancel the trip. Or they don’t have the travel cost if they stay abroad.
- Generally, scammers have no social media profile and even if they do, they have very little friends.
Ways to protect yourself from love scams
- Scams are not specific to matrimonial or dating sites. Be aware of uninvited friend requests on social media platforms and consider the possibility of scams when meeting people online.
- Since scammers create fake profiles via identity theft, always conduct a Google image search to verify the person’s identity. Do background checks of the person’s details. If possible try to contact their workplace or their friends to find out more.
- Do not make impulsive decisions. Consult a trusted friend or family member if you are not sure how to handle a complicated situation. The illusion of being in love can lead to irrational judgment.
- Be alert of any requests for personal information, credit card details, bank account details that are out of the ordinary.
- Ask relevant questions to make out any inconsistencies in their stories.
- Never send money or put money on gift cards to your online love interest. The chances of you getting the money back are zero. Report it immediately to your financial institution if you think you have transferred money to a scammer.
- Be wary of sharing any intimate photos and videos with a person you have never met. They might use it to blackmail you for further extortion.
- Block the scammer or report it in case of any suspicious behavior.
- If you have met the person on a dating website, stick your conversation to the platform only until you have adequate information to take the relationship forward.
- Always choose verified and secure matrimonial websites to search for brides or grooms. Check the reviews and the authenticity of the sites.
- Do not use your personal email address when signing up for matrimonial sites. Create a new email address and use it as the only source of communication.
- Report to Cybercrime police to investigate and to arrest the fraudster.
Can I cancel an international money transfer sent to a scammer?
The answer depends on the country and bank. In the US, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) ensures that remitters have the have the right to cancel the transfer at no cost if it meets certain conditions:
- You have made an international money transfer using a remittance transfer provider, as defined under federal law. All the money transfer companies listed on CompareRemit are compliant with the federal law. Check here
- The money you have sent has not been deposited to the recipient’s account or picked up by the recipient, and you paid for the transfer less than 30 minutes ago
- You can cancel 3 business days in advance for scheduled transfers
Most of the options that allow you to recall or cancel an international money transfer has a time window within which you can. In addition, having your transfer recalled or cancelled will cost you a fee depending on the money transfer service provider.
Our final advice would be to research, verify, and ask questions like “Sima Taparia from Mumbai” (Reference from the TV show called Indian Matchmaking on Netflix). And most importantly, check and verify the recipient details before you send money internationally. Armed with the knowledge to spot scammers and how to safeguard yourself from fake romance and losing money, you might find love online. Happy hunting!