NordVPN Research: 24% of Americans Have Been Targeted by Romance Scams

These kinds of scams involve a fraudster taking on a fake identity and feigning romantic interest for financial gain...

romance scams

In case you didn’t know, there are so-called romance scams out there. They happen when a criminal adopts a fake online identity and tricks the victim into believing they’re genuinely interested. And so, the conversation starts with the goal of creating a romantic bond with the victim over the Internet.

However, the scammer’s ultimate goal is to manipulate victims into sending money or performing other financial favors. Romance scams typically occur on dating sites but can also happen on social media platforms and messaging apps.

What happens in a romance scam?

As it is looking to get sensitive information,the scammer may talk about their “feelings” for the victim, talk about their life together in the future, and even propose marriage. Once the trust is established, the scammer is “ready” to proceed to the next phase — which involves a fake story and some money or financial favors to cover some costs.

As the victim is emotionally invested in this “relationship,” he/she may have genuine feelings for the scammer and may listen to their requests.

From the outset, it is rather obvious that these scammers are just criminals that are only interested in their victims’ money. They aimed to build an illusion with them and use it to their advantage.

Now, you may think that something like that couldn’t happen that easily, but in reality – romantic scams happen too often to ignore.

24% of U.S. adults have been targeted

According to a NordVPN survey, nearly one in four U.S. adults (24%) has been targeted by a romance scam. The respondents to the survey reported that someone had feigned interest in them only to get them to send money or access their financial information.

Of those targeted, 19% said they lost between $401 and $2,000 due to the romance scam, while 10% said they lost more than $2,000. Finally, 3% of respondents reported they lost between $10,001 and $45,000.

The study also found that 27% of U.S. adults have interacted with a profile that turned out to be fake or a bot, while another 27% said they received indecent images they did not request.

The survey also inquired about dating app security, only to find out that 45% of U.S. adults think that dating apps don’t do enough to verify their users. Moreover, 42% said that the number of fake profiles and bots on dating sites is growing.

The survey results show how important it is to remain vigilant on dating sites and apps, as well as on social media and messaging services.

How to protect yourself from romance scams?

There are several things you should know:

  • Know what romance scams look like. It involves “too good to be true” profiles, users offering early and eager devotion, and poor grammar (as many scammers are not native English speakers). Also, scammers can never meet you in person and have financial requests, which is not something your ideal someone would have.
  • Don’t share personal details quickly. There is no need to hurry with this. First, you’ll want to video chat with that special someone without sharing a bit of your personal — let alone financial — information. This, in case you wonder, also includes your contact information – as it could provide scammers with new channels to contact you.
  • Use reputable dating platforms only. There are literally hundreds of dating websites out there, and you should be extra careful about which website you’re using. Opt for a reputable dating platform that has been in business for a while and which does its due diligence properly. There are no guarantees even there, but it’s still better than “YetAnotherDatingWebsite.net.”
  • Go slow and ask questions. In fact, you should be the one (as opposed to the scammer) asking a lot of questions. Scammers have a script they use to trick their victims, and your questions could discover inconsistencies in their stories. Look for the red flags and take your time.
  • Don’t send or even receive money. Finding that special someone shouldn’t be about money, so do not send or even receive any money. Instead, ask for a date and video calls. Meeting in person is what counts in this “game,” and scammers want to avoid that (crucial) step.

If, however, you end up as a victim – you’ll want to report the incident on the dating app. Also, you should keep records of your communications and even contact the authorities and submit a fraud complaint if you lost some money in the process.

The survey methodology

In order to get to these details, NordVPN commissioned a survey of 5,000 Americans. An external agency surveyed between 23rd and 27th Jan 2023, asking respondents questions about online dating and scams. The sample was representative of U.S. adults (18-64).

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