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Heart instant message on computer screen
Heart instant message on computer screen
Heart instant message on computer screen

Updated February 2024.

Published July 27, 2017.

Don’t get catfished

While relaxing on the couch binging trash reality TV, you matched with the most attractive and lovely person on Tinder. They seem to have it all: The looks, texts you constantly, and you can practically hear their charming voice.

Even with the excited of a new romance, you've noticed some red flags. You’ve grown fond of your new heartthrob, but they’re always “too busy” for a Facetime. They also claim they’re back in the United Kingdom and want to visit you. The catch is they need your help covering the travel costs. They promise they will pay you back. Would you be willing to lend them the money?

A real heartbreaker.

Buckle up baby…. welcome to the “sweetheart scam”, one of the most common and enduring frauds. This scam is when a con artist invests their time in online relationships to gain big payoffs. In 2022, there were 70,000 reports of the sweetheart scam, also known as romance scam, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Victims lost $1.3 billion to online “pals” they grew to adore but had never actually met.

Unfortunate for sure. But in your case, of course, you’re confident that your new online flame is real. Maybe you matched on a dating app. Maybe you’ve been chatting for years without mixing money and love. But, you’ve never had the chance to meet, you haven't received photos, or had a facetime to verify their identity.

Scammers will maintain frequent communication with their victims through texting, direct messaging, and email. Scammers focus on the emotional appealthe small things that deepen a relationship. They invest their time and energy into the scam because the payoff can be huge. In 2022, the average reported loss to a sweetheart scam was $4,400, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Victims empty their savings for their “admirer” or will accept a check from the scammer as repayment. But those checks will be counterfeit.

Unbreak my heart.

Scams can vary, but there are common signs of the sweetheart scam that everyone should know.

First, the scammer will be unable or unwilling to meet in person, and something always seems to come up that keeps them at a distance. They often give vague information about what they do, where they’re from, or claim to work outside the country.

“Lies romance scammers tell.” U.S. Federal Trade Commission

The fraudster may send you a copy of their passport or photos, but the details don’t add up. That’s because the passport is fake, or the photos were stolen from websites.

The sweetheart scam also is an equal-opportunity crime, as men and women of all ages can fall for it.

Call for help.

If you’ve been scammedor are simply wondering if your “sweetheart” could be a con artisttake action ASAP.