Spotting Romance Scams

Online romance scams

Romance scams have been around since the dawn of time. A woman meets a man and seduces him for his money. A man meets a woman and steals her retirement. Men and women use each other to get revenge on an ex-lover. People use romance scams today, but they tend to be online. Scammers choose a target and begin to weave a tale of woe or claim to believe in love at first sight. The targets give in and the scammer walks away with money in hand. The FTC reports that people lost $143 million last year due to scams. The median loss for romance scams last year was $2,600 per person.

What is a Romance Scam?

A romance scam involves meeting a person who will lavish you with gifts, compliments, and dreams of a life together…just before asking for money. Scammers tell the same stories over and over. He has a medical emergency. She is late paying her rent. He has lost his family and needs someone to help him heal. She is stranded in another country. She’ll come to you but needs money for travel. However, there is no medical emergency; no one is stranded; and the only place the scammer is going is to the bank.

The Target

Profiles include a middle-aged woman who is somewhat dowdy and lonely or an older man who is looking for a trophy wife. Scammers target people who are older and are more isolated than the younger population, but they are not the only ones. Targets include professionals who are too busy to date, people tired of the dating scene, those who are disabled or are unable to get out into public, shy people. Many of the people being scammed are intelligent and ones that would not be duped easily otherwise. The scammers are just that good.

Spotting the Scam

Online daters should be on the lookout for the following signs:

Shady Profile Signs

Scammers’ profiles may include:

Professional or glamor profile pictures. Some won’t post any picture.

Profiles provide little or no information.

They claim to be in the military and stationed overseas.

They are looking for dates in the area although they live in another country.

They Send You to Another Site

Recent scams include sending their targets to another site. Some contain malware or ask for personal information. Most will want to talk through an app or by text. Use a free reverse phone lookup app to ensure the number belongs to the user.

Something Always Comes Up

The scammer wants to meet you, but something always comes up. There is an emergency, he got called into work, she has to take care of her sick mother. The truth is that the scammers are lying and will never meet you. Yet, it’s a good opportunity for them to ask for money for rent, bills, or travel.

They Ask for Money

The scammer will always ask for financial support – money, a new phone, travel expenses, or untraceable gift cards. They will refuse physical gifts, claiming that they want the money. Once the target says no, the scammer will try harder, often becoming combative. Eventually, the scammer will disappear and move onto the next person.

Reporting a Scam

If you are a victim of a romance scam, delete the person from your phone/computer. This includes phone contact. Report to the scam to the FTC.

Reverse Searches for Cell Phone Numbers

Reverse Phone Lookup

Have you ever received a call from an unknown number? How do you know if it’s a call you should answer or ignore? One of the easiest ways to identify an unknown number is to use a reverse phone search. The search will identify the name and location of the owner, whether it is an individual or business. The searches are easy, and usually free. However, if the caller is using a cell phone, the search is a little more difficult.

Search Engines

If you want to search for a phone number, you can do it in one of two ways. The first way is to go online and type the information into a search engine like Google. You can also choose to use a website devoted to searches, such as WhitePages.com.

You must type the phone number in with the area code and select “search.” The results will show you the name of the caller. Users prefer websites that are free, however, that’s not always possible. The hosts must pay to get information and keep it up to date. This is especially true when it comes to cell phones.

Why It Isn’t Free

Websites collect data from various sources and then use it to do the searches. The sources include other websites, phone directories, social media, reverse phone directories, and more. While there are free services, the information is often outdated. There isn’t a single source that records and maintains data for cell phones.

Cell Phone Numbers

People can’t get cell phone numbers easily because cell phone companies issue the numbers. Therefore, there isn’t a single directory for cell phone numbers. Traditional phone companies have to interface with other companies which is why it’s possible to have a phone directory of landlines. Companies would have difficulty in maintaining a directory because people change phone numbers frequently. Internet phone numbers make the task more difficult. Intelius, Inc. tried to make a cell phone directory in 2008, but people complained about an invasion of privacy, plus a wireless company threatened to sue.

Cell Phone Look Up

Users can do a search on cell phone numbers, but it is rarely free. First, type “reverse cell phone lookup” into a search engine. You’ll get a list of sites that have the information. Second, pick a site and type in the phone number. You’ll be asked to pay a fee for the search, or you can subscribe to the service. Some sites don’t charge for searches if they are unable to get the information.

Fake Numbers

Some telemarketers and scammers use fake numbers to trick you into answering the phone. To keep from getting repeat calls, you can use an app or the settings on your phone to block the number. If you get repeat calls from someone claiming to be from a government agency, report the activity to the agency and to the Federal Communications Commission.

 

 

 

New Veterans’ Benefits Scam

Scammers target veterans

Veterans are the target of a new benefits scam. Scammers call veterans to talk about their medical care and the Veterans Choice Program. The VCP is a part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The program allows eligible vets to access approved health care providers who operate outside the VA network.

Fraudsters try to trick veterans into answering important questions such as social security number, date of birth, and bank account information. In addition to health care scams, the callers approach veterans about updating their information, credit cards or financial services including home loans.

Spoofing

The scam involves using a phone number designed to fool people into believing the call is from the VA. Con artists may use lingo that is related to VA benefits. They may sound like legitimate representatives. They set up phony 1-800 numbers to lure the veteran or family member into thinking that they have reached the VCP. It may contain a message stating that the veteran is eligible for a rebate or other services if the caller supplies a credit card number. The VA will never request financial information over the phone, nor will any other government agency. The real number for the Veterans Choice Program is 866-606-8198.

Callers may also leave a voice message to get you to return the call. A common message: “Your VA profile was flagged for two potential benefits to the changes in the VA program. These are time sensitive entitlements. Please call us back at your earliest convenience.”

If you call the number and it seems suspicious, hang up and verify the number. You can also use a phone app to do a reverse phone search to ensure the number is legitimate. If the call is not legitimate, report it to the VA’s identity theft prevention program, More Than a Number.

Email Scams

Scammers may also use email to get information. They often use official looking logos, seals or letterhead to resemble the real organization they claim to represent. The con artists will try to get you to send money or supply financial information. They will also “phish” for your information. If you receive such an email, you should take down the information, delete the email, and report it to the legitimate organization and to the Federal Trade Commission.

Black Market

Thieves who steal a person’s information may use it for a wide variety of purposes. They may make withdrawals from bank accounts or open credit cards. At worst, they will sell the information on the black market or Dark Web, which means an untold number of people will have access to your information. You should always safeguard that information, but if that happens, there is little that can be done aside from shutting down accounts and opening new ones. Security companies, banks and credit card companies may offer identity theft protection, which is another way to protect yourself.