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Break up with romance scammers this Valentine’s Day – The Indian Express

By McAfee
For years now, the popularity of online dating has been on the rise—and so have the number of online romance scams that leave people with broken hearts and empty wallets.
The pandemic played cupid and like working digitally, people also looked for love online. Last year, the Interpol issued a notice to its 194 member countries, including India, which said that fraudsters were scamming people on dating apps and asked users to stay vigilant and safe when entering online relationships.
Dating and romance scams aren’t limited to online dating apps and sites, they’ll happen on social media and in online games as well.
Initially, an introduction is made, a chat begins, and a friendship (or more) blossoms from there. Along the way, the scammer will often rely on a mix of somewhat exotic yet believable storytelling to lure the victim in, often involving their job and where they’re working. Reports say that scammers will talk of being workers on an offshore oil rig, members of the military stationed overseas, doctors working with an international organization, or working in the sort of jobs that would prevent them from otherwise easily meeting up in person.
With the phony relationship established, the scammer starts duping victims into wrong financial decisions.  The establishing of trust is important for fraudsters as after this, they share investment tips with their victims and influence them to join a scheme. Victims do not realize that they’re exploited until one day, all contact stops.  They’re left confused, hurt, and worried that they’ll never see their money again. Scammers often employ a story with an intriguing complication that seems just reasonable enough, one where the romance scammer makes it sound like they could really use the victim’s financial help.
People who have filed fraud reports say they’ve paid their scammer in a few typical ways.
One is by wiring money, often through a wire transfer company. The benefit of this route, for the scammer anyway, is that this is as good as forking over cash. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. The victim lacks the protections they have with other payment forms, such as a credit card that allows the holder to cancel or contest a charge.
Another way is through gift cards. Scammers of all stripes, not just romance scammers, like these because they effectively work like cash, whether it’s a gift card for a major online retailer or a chain of brick-and-mortar stores. Like a wire transfer, once that gift card is handed over, the money on it is highly difficult to recover, if at all.
One more common payment is through reloadable debit cards. A scammer may make an initial request for such a card and then make several follow-on requests to load it up again.
In all, a romance scammer will typically look for the easiest payment method that’s the most difficult to contest or reimburse, leaving the victim in a financial lurch once the scam ends.
When it comes to online dating, a few things need to be kept in mind. Firstly, it always helps to inform someone you trust about the person you’re interested in, because an outside observer can more easily notice suspicious behaviour and warn you about them. Secondly, cross-checking your date’s details online also helps. In case you find a different profile with the same display picture as your partner’s, you’re very likely being scammed. Lastly, don’t accept requests for online gifts and money transfers from someone you’ve never met.
Scammers, although arguably heartless, are still human. They make mistakes. The stories they concoct are just that. Stories. They may jumble their details, get their times and dates all wrong, or simply get caught in an apparent lie. Also, keep in mind that some scammers may be working several victims at once, which is yet another opportunity for them to get confused and slip up.
As mentioned above, some romance scammers troll social media and reach out through a direct message or friend request. With that, there are three things you can do to cut down your chances of getting caught up with a scammer:
If you suspect that you’re being scammed, put an end to the relationship and report it, as difficult as that may feel.
Do not hesitate to report to official portals such as National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal (NCCRP) as they can help you investigate and notify the police to identify and take legal action against the fraudsters. Likewise, notify the social media site, app, or service where the scam occurred as well. In case your bank account or card details are compromised, instead of making emotional decisions, follow the rules and regulations for such incidences.
Lastly, go easy on yourself. If you find yourself a victim of online dating or romance fraud, know that you won’t be the first or last person to be taken advantage of this way. By reporting your case, you in fact may help others from falling victim too.
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