Scam Alert: Online Romances (Catfishing)

Online Romance Scams

Romance scams (a.k.a. “Catfishing,”) are fake online profiles created in order to lure  someone into romantic relationship. The scammer then often uses this relationship to gain the victim’s trust in order to gain money.

It can happen to anyone at any age, and both men and women commonly fall victim to these scams.


Online romance scams are a growing problem.

According to the FTC, “In the past five years, people have reported losing a staggering $1.3 billion to romance scams, more than any other FTC fraud category.”

The FTC goes on to report that in 2021, “reported losses hit $547 million — a new record — and more than six times the reported losses in 2017. The median individual reported loss in 2021 was $2,400.”

Here are three tips to help you avoid online romance scams:

  1. Be wary of people who are too good to be true.If someone you meet online seems too perfect, they probably are. Scammers often create fake profiles that are designed to be very appealing. If something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. If you have any doubts about someone you’re talking to online, it’s best to walk away.
  1. Don’t give out personal information too soon.Even if it seems harmless, it’s best to wait to give out your full name, address, phone number or employer until you’ve had a chance to have met in person or have friends in common.
  1. Don’t send money (or gift cards) to someone you’ve never met in person. This is a surefire way to lose your money. If someone you’ve met online asks you for money, it’s a scam. And NEVER give out your banking information to an individual you have met online only, no matter how legit their reasoning sounds.

Also, be aware of the signs of a romance scam. Some common signs include:

  • They are always busy and can’t meet in person;
  • They ask for money for a variety of reasons, such as to help them with a medical emergency or to travel to see you;
  • They use poor grammar or spelling (indicating they are outside of your home country);
  • Their profile picture looks like it may have been taken from elsewhere on the internet. (Pro tip: you can do a Reverse Google Image search on your phone to check!)

If you think you may have been the victim of an online romance scam, there are a few things you can do:

  • Report the scam to the FTC. You can do this online at
  • Contact your bank or credit card company. They may be able to help you recover your money.
  • File a police report. This may help law enforcement catch the scammer.

Here are some additional tips to help you protect yourself from online romance scams:

  • Use a secure dating website.Well-known dating websites have security features in place to help protect users from scammers. Avoid niche or small dating websites that have just started. Also, some established dating sites (like Hinge) will indicate profiles that have been “verified” by their systems to be a real person — stick with communicating with those people only.
  • Do your research.Before you meet or give any personal information to someone you met online, ask for their last name, and take some time to research them. Performing a free Google search using full name, city, and/or job title will often reveal their social media profiles. Or, you can do a background check for a small fee. All you need is a first and last name, approximate location and age, and a website like Instant Checkmate to complete the background check.
  • Make them prove they are real. Ask them to send a specific selfie, such as an “OK” gesture next to their face, or a written word you specify. This will be almost impossible to fake using stolen images from other profiles.

Online romance scams can be very costly and emotionally damaging. By following these tips, you can help protect yourself from becoming a victim.


We cover more tips in this other blog post.

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