The phrase "romance scam" might sound like the title of a cheesy Hallmark rom-com, but it can be a rather serious problem if you're not aware when looking for love online.

What Is A Romance Scam?

Online dating requires some people to be at their most vulnerable. At least it appears that way looking at some of the profiles that come up in search results on dating websites and apps.

A romance scam involves people making fictitious profiles to win the trust of someone looking for a mate in an attempt to get money out of them.

The process begins like any other online dating conversation. There's some awkward conversation that likely leads to flirting. The chats may increase over time as the scammer tries to strengthen the bond with the potential target.

Then, they ask you for money through a heartstring-tugging story.

Stressed woman holding smartphone feels humiliated, cyberbullying concept
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If you're thinking "no one would fall for that," you should know people are unknowingly tossing millions at scammers on an annual basis. The Federal Trade Commission reported a record $547 million was scammed out of people in 2021, up nearly 80% from the previous year.

That amount increased to an eye-popping $1.3 billion in 2022.

How Not To Fall For A Romance Scam

None of this should scare you away from online dating. Instead, think of this as a reminder that you still need to think with your head along with your heart when looking for love.

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Here are a few things to keep in mind so you don't get caught up in a potential scam:

  • Something will keep the scammer from meeting you in person. They conveniently won't be able to see you in person because of some hardship (medical emergency, work situation, unreliable transportation, etc.)
  • It's OK to stop talking to this person immediately if you suspect something is up. The FTC recommends running the situation by a friend or family member to get a second opinion.
  • Do a quick search for the person online. You can search the person's profile photo by dropping the image into a Google search. Also consider searching their alleged places of employment. There's also a chance this same scam was tried on someone else. Search for posts that contain similar text to the messages sent to you on the dating app.
Man giving a like to photo on social media or swiping on online dating app. Finger pushing heart icon on screen in smartphone application.
Getty Images

Romance scams are more common than you probably think. Nearly 70,000 people reported a scam in 2022. It's OK to take a moment and do a little research on your potential love interest.

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