Everyone is looking for love, and we all want to create meaningful connections, but be extra careful because your online flirt might be a money-grabbing trap. Romance scams have become a massive hazard that affects netizens from all around the globe. The MBX team has seen firsthand what these horrible schemes can do to people, and we want to put a stop to this.
Our mission is to fight scams by helping people mitigate their losses or by proactively preventing fraud through education. We want to share our experience and know-how to help you recognize romance scams and avoid them, thus protecting yourself and your loved ones.
What Are Romance Scams?
You may have heard the terms “online dating fraud,” “love scheme,” “Romeo con,” and, of course, “romance scams.” Don’t let them confuse you – they all refer to the same thing. These are all devastating forms of online fraud that target individuals seeking romantic connections through dating websites, apps, or social media platforms.
Romance scams involve fraudsters creating fake profiles and posing as potential romantic partners to establish emotional connections with their victims. The objective is to gain the trust and affection of their targets before exploiting them for money, gifts, personal information, and even illegal favors.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the prevalence and impact of romance scams continue to rise. In 2022, nearly 70,000 people reported falling victim to romance scams, with total reported losses reaching a staggering $1.3 billion. This figure reflects a continuation of the alarming trend observed in 2021. The median reported loss for individuals who fell prey to these scams was $4,400, highlighting the significant monetary burden faced by victims.
The impact of romance scams on victims goes beyond budgetary losses, as they often suffer significant psychological trauma as well. We at MBX understand that victims of these scams may experience feelings of betrayal, depression, and a loss of trust in others.
Many victims have endured psychological abuse at the hands of scammers, who manipulate their emotions and exploit their vulnerabilities. This emotional toll can lead to victims being in denial about the reality of their situation, making it difficult for them to seek help or heal from the experience. MBX has helped many romance scam victims understand and cope with the emotional consequences of these scams.
MBX Tip: Trust your instincts! If something feels off or too good to be true, listen to your gut. Your intuition is often the best indicator that something may not be right.
Setting Up Fake Profiles
Scammers invest considerable time and effort in meticulously creating fake accounts on social media and dating apps to deceive their victims. They often steal pictures from other people’s profiles, but the MBX team has also seen crooks use professional photos of models and even celebrities. In a significant majority of cases, the stolen photos are of traditionally attractive people.
MBX Tip: When you meet a new online friend, just to be sure, take a screenshot of their picture and do a reverse image search. If you discover more pictures of this person under a different name, chances are scammers are abusing someone else’s photos.
Furthermore, fraudsters craft elaborate fake identities, typically portraying themselves as seasoned military personnel, oil rig workers, doctors, or other professionals who find themselves stuck abroad due to unforeseen circumstances. The narratives they create may vary, but male profiles are typically those of widowers whose spouses died tragically, evoking sympathy and compassion from their targets.
MBX Tip: Ask your new online date a lot of questions regarding details about their place of residence, work, family members, and so on. If you notice details are off and they are avoiding answers, be careful.
To make these profiles appear genuine, fraudsters populate them with fake followers and concoct a web of interactions, such as leaving comments on their own posts or engaging in seemingly genuine conversations with other fake accounts. They may even conduct thorough research on their chosen persona, sharing convincing details about their work, interests, and personal lives to lend credibility to their false identities. As part of our mission at MBX, we strive to raise awareness about these deceptive tactics, empowering individuals to spot the red flags, remain vigilant, and protect themselves from falling prey to such scams.
Establishing Trust and Building a Fake Relationship
In the initial stages of a romance scam, fraudsters focus on building trust and establishing a seemingly genuine relationship with their victims rather than asking for money outright. One of the main manipulation tactics they employ is love bombing. This involves showering their target with attention, compliments, and affection, creating a sense of intimacy and making the victim feel special. Scammers are often unobtrusively available, always ready to provide emotional support and maintain regular communication. This calculated approach helps them manipulate the victim into developing strong, artificial emotions for the fictitious lover.
Another crucial aspect of these scams is the way they communicate with their victims. Scammers often target multiple victims simultaneously, using a variety of approaches and adjusting their tactics based on the victims’ responses. Because of this, they streamline their affection and make it impersonal with generic terms of endearment.
MBX Tip: Pay attention if your new online chat friend avoids using your name but always uses general sweet-talk phrases like honey, darling, sweetie, and so on.
Scammers typically restrict their interactions to chat or phone calls, as they cannot risk showing their faces in video sessions, which would reveal their true identity and expose their deception.
MBX Tip: Think carefully if you’ve ever seen your online partner’s face on video calls. If you only communicate through chats and phone calls, and they only send you pictures, you are most probably in contact with a scammer.
By maintaining the facade of a loving and attentive partner, they create an illusion of a genuine bond and deepen the emotional connection with their target, laying the groundwork for the next phase of the scam.
A hallmark of romance scams is the swiftness with which scammers express strong emotions and feign deep infatuation for their victims. After just a few weeks of chatting, the scammer will often declare their undying and passionate love. In many cases, the victim reciprocates these feelings, under the illusion that they are in a genuine online relationship.
Scammers will make promises about their future together, assuring the victim that they will do everything in their power to meet in person and build a life together. By making such grandiose declarations, the scammer heightens the emotional intensity of the relationship, further entrenching the victim’s feelings of love and commitment.
MBX Tip: Take it slow! Genuine connections take time to develop. Be cautious of individuals who express strong emotions or profess their love too quickly.
At MBX, we recognize the emotional vulnerability that victims of these scams experience. We understand that when emotions are heightened, the scammer is ready to initiate the main part of their scheme, capitalizing on the victim’s strong feelings and trust to exploit them for their funds, information, or favors.
From our considerable experience working with romance scam cases, we never saw a single fraud victim giving away their money right away and out of the blue. All online dating fraud targets first endure a process of severe manipulation. This is why it saddens us to see so many institutions putting the blame on the victim, and not on the heartless criminals.
Asking for Money and More
Once the groundwork of emotional manipulation has been laid, scammers begin the process of asking for money. They typically start by requesting a small and seemingly reasonable loan, an amount the victim wouldn’t mind giving. Why, wouldn’t we all give some petty cash to a person we love?!
Like most things with fraudulent schemes, there is always an ulterior motive behind the actions of scammers. The initial tiny loan is a clever psychological manipulation tactic that primes the target for much larger demands. Generally, people are more likely to continue providing favors to someone they’ve already helped. In other words, a person who has given out a tiny loan will most probably provide a much larger one.
As the relationship progresses, the scammer’s requests become bolder, and they demand larger amounts of money. Common excuses include needing funds for travel expenses or resolving issues with documents, all in the supposed pursuit of meeting the victim in person. At MBX, we have witnessed countless instances where victims have been led to believe that providing this cash infusion is the only obstacle preventing their much-anticipated meeting.
MBX Tip: Never lend or give your money to a person whom you’ve only met online, and never face to face!
However, scammers always have an excuse for why they cannot meet in person, such as sustaining an injury, having a family member in need, or facing a disaster at home. These fabricated emergencies are designed to tug at the victim’s heartstrings and maintain the illusion of a genuine relationship.
It’s important to note that scammers may also ask for expensive gifts like phones and computers or even cryptocurrencies down the line. They may be after personal information or explicit photos of the victim to use for blackmail. Our team at MBX is committed to preventing these extortions by explaining warning signs of romance scams and providing support to those who have been affected.
MBX Tip: Establish and maintain clear boundaries, and communicate your expectations with the person you’re connecting with online.
Dragging Out the Scam and Squeezing the Victim Dry
Scammers use sophisticated psychological manipulation and abuse techniques to force their victims to give more and more money. At MBX, we have encountered numerous cases where victims have been pushed beyond their budgetary limits, even taking out loans to continue supporting their fraudulent lover.
These love scams can last for months or even years, as long as the victim has money to give. During this time, the scammer constantly invents new crises and emergencies to justify their requests for such large amounts of money. They exploit the victim’s emotions, making them feel responsible for their supposed lover’s well-being and perpetuating the belief that their relationship is genuine.
MBX Tip: Talk to friends and family. Share your online relationship with trusted loved ones. They can provide valuable insights and may notice red flags you might have missed.
Throughout the scheme, the victim remains under the fraudster’s control, their life unraveling as they pour their resources into the relationship. These scams have the potential to ruin lives and tear families apart, leaving victims devastated in every way.
In case the target feels something is off, and they refuse to oblige the demands for more money, they are immediately met with aggression, pressure tactics, love deprivation, and derogatory language. The fraudsters attack their prey, making them feel guilty, heartless, and cruel for not helping their lover. The scammers devalue the victim’s sense of worth by saying no one can love them except the fake lover. Because of all that, the targets feel crushed and they yield to further demands.
MBX Tip:A lot of romance scams follow the abuse pattern. If you feel you are being pulled into an abusive online relationship, ask for advice from friends and loved ones, seek counseling, and if possible, block the abuser on every means of communication.
At MBX, we understand the immense pain and suffering these scams can cause. It is our core belief that all scam victims should be treated with respect and kindness. Time and again, we have seen what agony they have gone through.
Scammers will prolong the scam as long as they can, extracting as much money, information, and services from the victim as possible. However, eventually, the day comes when the scammer decides they can no longer benefit from the victim and simply disappears, leaving the victim with significant monetary and emotional damage.
Victims of romance scams are often left in a state of confusion, suffering, and disbelief. The abrupt end to the false relationship they believed was genuine can seem catastrophic. We at MBX have seen countless people who were paralyzed by grief and shame after being targeted by these heartless fraudsters. The emotional toll of such a betrayal is immense, as victims grapple with feelings of guilt, embarrassment, and a deep sense of loss. At MBX, we recognize the profound impact these scams have on victims’ lives, and we are committed to helping them find a way forward. We aim to assist victims in their self-recovery and empower them to rebuild their lives.
Types of Romance Scams
All romance scams share a common goal of exploiting victims for money, information, and favors, but they can do this with varying scripts and methods. Being aware of these different types of online dating schemes can help you stay vigilant and protect yourself from falling prey to fraudsters. MBX team wants to share the most common versions of romance scams that you should be aware of.
Military Romance Scams
This type of fraud has become so widespread that the US Army has an official statement that warns people against this terrible threat. In these scams, the fraudster pretends to be a military service member stationed abroad. They may use stolen photos of actual military personnel and share convincing stories about their service and experiences to gain the victim’s trust. Eventually, they will claim to need monetary assistance for a variety of reasons, such as medical expenses, travel costs, or to fund a leave request. Military romance scammers often prey on the victim’s patriotism and sense of duty, making it difficult for the victim to refuse their requests for help
International Online Dating Fraud
Truth be told, scammers usually defraud people internationally. Meaning, they are most probably from a different country than their targets. However, that is not the point that is relevant here. They often present themselves as successful business people, professionals, or individuals in need of help. They will build an emotional connection with the victim before requesting money to help with a personal or professional crisis or to cover travel expenses to meet in person. Usually, they promise they would return the loans with significant interest. These scams can be particularly convincing, as the scammer will often share elaborate stories about their life, work, and experiences abroad, making their need for assistance seem legitimate.
Many couples who are in a long-distance relationship enjoy some form of online affection like sexting, providing revealing photos, and similar. So, it doesn’t seem too strange when fake lovers lead their targets into such practices.
The goal of this type of scam is to trick the victim into sharing extremely private and sensitive information, explicit photos, and videos of sex acts. The target usually does this under the cover of intimate conversations or video chats, but they are unaware they are giving ammo to the criminal’s gun. Once the scammer has compromising material, they threaten to share it with the victim’s friends, family, or on public platforms unless the victim pays a ransom or provides additional explicit content.
Sextortion scams can be particularly damaging, as the victim may feel trapped and terrified of the potential consequences of the material being shared. In many instances, the target has a lot to lose from this and not just their public image, as their career or even marriage can be on the line.
MBX Tip: Be extra careful with digital intimacy! Think twice before sharing intimate photos or videos, as these can be used against you in scams such as sextortion.
This type of online fraud was originally affecting Asian countries, but in the meantime, it has spread across the world. Also known as “Sha Zhu Pan” in Chinese, it is named after a traditional practice where farmers fatten up pigs before selling them. Similarly, scammers will invest time and effort into building a strong emotional connection with their victims before bleeding them out of their money.
They may use various tactics, such as pretending to invest in a lucrative business opportunity, asking the victim to join them in the investment, and then absconding with the funds. This method allows the scammer to manipulate the victim into willingly handing over their money, believing they are participating in a genuine profitable opportunity.
Cryptocurrency Romance Scams
As cryptocurrencies gain popularity, romance scammers have started targeting victims interested in digital currencies. The scammer may claim to be an expert in cryptocurrency trading or mining and offer to help the victim grow their portfolio. After gaining the victim’s trust, they will either ask for access to the victim’s cryptocurrency wallet or persuade them to transfer funds to the scammer’s wallet. Once the scammer has control of the funds, they disappear without a trace, leaving the victim with significant losses.
However, do note that you don’t have to be a crypto holder to become a victim of cryptocurrency romance fraud. While helping the targets of online dating fraud, we have worked with people who were carefully instructed to buy cryptocurrencies and send them to criminals. Before that, these people didn’t have any interest or special knowledge of cryptocurrencies.
MBX Tip: At Money Back Experts we have a saying – Think twice before sending your money to anyone, but think thrice before sending cryptocurrencies.
Unfortunately, there are even worse scenarios than stealing people’s hard-earned money. Some romance scams target unsuspecting victims to convince them to transfer, receive, or launder money on their behalf. These fraudsters might also ask their victims to transport illegal goods like arms or drugs. The victim unknowingly becomes a “money mule,” assisting the scammer in their illegal activities. Sadly, some of these law-abiding targets get arrested not knowing they were participating in a crime and they face criminal charges or even go to jail.
MBX Tip: Don’t accept moving packages of any kind across borders. If your online lover sends you any kind of parcel, don’t be shy open it, and if it’s anything illegal, report it to the police.
Don’t Let Romance Scammers Win! Take Action with MBX Guide
MBX Team strives to proactively protect people from scams through education and spreading awareness. Our mission is to prevent the scam before any individual engages with the love swindler, and this way they avoid severe psychological and monetary damage.
Be that as it may, the fraudulent organizations are so large and well-trained that even with all the efforts against them, they still defraud people. If you or someone you love has become a victim of a romance scam, the Money Back Experts team is here for you. We are dedicated to empowering victims to gain the right tools and knowledge to reclaim their lost funds.
We understand that grief, disbelief, and shame can be paralyzing, but don’t lock yourself out of the world. Do something! Money Back Experts Step-by-Step Guide was specifically designed to help victims of all kinds of scams reclaim their money, and it can help you too.