Romance Fraud/Scam

A romance fraud/scam is a confidence trick involving fake romantic intentions towards a victim, gaining their affection, and then using that goodwill to get the victim to send money to the fraudster under false pretenses or to commit fraud against the victim.

Understanding Romance Fraud/Scam

The fraudsters who carry out romance fraud/scams are experts at what they do and will seem genuine, caring, and believable.

The fraudster’s intention is to establish a relationship as quickly as possible, endear himself to the victim, and gain their trust. Fraudsters may even propose marriage and make plans to meet in person, but that will never happen.

The fraudster would often say they are in the travel industry and are engaged in travel outside the U.S. or in Europe. That makes it easier to avoid meeting in person and more plausible when they ask for money.

How is Romance Fraud/Scam executed?

  • Contact is established via Social Media, e.g., Facebook, Instagram and communication is maintained via WhatsApp, using a telephone contact which appears to be a foreign or local number.
  • Over time, when trust is developed, the individual (man or woman) will be advised that valuable gift items will be sent to them via a shipping company and delivered to them.
  • The fraudster sends recorded videos of the items contained in the package as well as a picture of the wrapped package with the name and address of the consignee.
    NB: The information on the package appears to be an official document and carries a similar appearance to information on genuine shipment packages.
  • Shortly thereafter, the individual would be contacted by a representative purporting to be from a shipping company advising that the package had arrived and the amount of charges to be paid.
  • In order to make the payment the individual would be given an account number to deposit the funds related to the shipping charges.
  • Once the deposit is made, the individual is usually required to confirm payment to the fraudster.
  • The funds are usually withdrawn immediately once the deposit is made, or within a short timeframe.
  • In some instances, shortly after the initial payment is made, the representative purporting to be from the shipping company would contact the individual to advise that a large sum of foreign cash was discovered in the package and a further payment is required.
  • Each time a payment is required, an account number and name is provided by the fraudster.
  • The scam usually ends when the individual realizes that they have not received the items after several payments have been made.

Tips to protect yourself from Romance Fraud/Scam

  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Fraudsters/ Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to better understand and target you.
  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the image, name, or details have been used elsewhere.
  • Go slowly and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly, e.g. WhatsApp.
  • Beware if the individual attempts to request financial/personal information.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or by phone.
  • If it’s too good to be true, it’s usually a scam.
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