Romance (Scams) Are in the Air: How to Protect Your Heart & Assets


Finding love and deep connection can be challenging, especially in this digital age of online dating. According to Pew Research, three in ten U.S. adults say they have used a dating site or application to find love. Romance scams are on the rise. Instead of finding a love connection, victims find love deception. The FTC reports $1.3 billion in recorded losses directly attributed to romance scams in 2022.

As moms, our natural instincts drive us to protect those we love. They don’t call us “mama bears” for nothing, right? This intrinsic disposition to love, serve, protect, and nurture is, sadly, exploited by fraudsters to deceive and steal from those on a modern quest for love.

Fear not my love seekers, you shall not journey on this quest alone. This Wizard of Fraud is here to offer you tools to use on your journey to love. While I cannot offer protection spells to guard your hearts, I can provide some strategies to help protect your wallet.

Unmasking the Illusion: The True Face of Romance Scams

What is a romance scam anyway? A romance scam is a type of fraud involving phony romantic intentions towards a victim. Romance scammers will cultivate a relationship, building a seemingly genuine emotional connection, and then use that bond to commit fraud. The goal of this type of fraud is almost always financial gain for the scammer. This often leads to a broken heart, a sense of shame, developed or enhanced trust issues, and financial loss for the victim.

Romance (Scams) Are in the Air: How to Protect Your Heart & Your AssetsBeware of False Affections: The Landscape of Romance Scams

Romance scammers are master manipulators who play on emotional triggers to extract money or personal details from their victims. The reasons a scammer will give for requesting money from their victims vary widely but often involve elaborate and fabricated scenarios such as:

Medical emergencies: Scammers might invent a story about a critical health condition or an accident that requires expensive medication and services not covered by insurance. They might even say a close family member is in dire need of medical treatment.

Travel expenses or Immigration Visa Problems: Scammers may claim they are trying to visit but need help with the cost of travel. Or they may go as far as claiming they need money to cover the cost of visa applications, immigration lawyers if they claim to live abroad, or any other number of travel documents to resolve alleged travel complications.

Business ventures: Scammers might use a business venture that is in distress or investment funds that are pending but require immediate capital as a pretext for soliciting funds. These types of requests may even come with assurances that it will be a short-term loan until their own funds become available. They might promise a hefty return in the form of interest or stake in the investment itself.

Blackmail: Insidious romance scammers might ask for or even steal intimate photographs and other sensitive personal information that could later be used for blackmail.

That is a mere sample of the fiction scammers spin. They want you trapped in their web of deceit. Be wary of stories that pull on your heartstrings, seem too interesting, or have too many inconsistencies.

» » » » » » » » » » » » » »  RELATED READ: 8 Internet Safety Rules for Kids  « « « « « « « « « « « « «

In the Scammer’s Crosshairs: Could You Be the Ideal Prey?

The reality is that anyone can be victimized by a romance scammer, but predators often hone in on particularly vulnerable individuals. Single moms or widows might be seen as ideal targets to scammers. Romance scammers are ruthless and will prey on those who appear to be emotionally vulnerable and financially stable.

Fortifying Your Heart and Wallet: Defense Strategies Against Romance Scams

What strategies can you employ to protect yourself from romance scammers? What warning signs should you look for when embarking on a digital quest for love?

Take it easy: Quests are journeys not quick trips. Take your time in getting to know the person who got you to swipe right. Romance scammers move quickly to deepen the relationship, creating an illusion of trust before their motives are discovered.

Know your match: Verify their identity with reverse image searches and other online search tools to check their photos and profile information. A profile that appears to perfectly align with your own interests and desires may be less serendipitous and more suspicious. A little sleuthing can potentially reveal if their pictures are associated with another person or have been used in previous scams.

Use trusted platforms with secure methods to communicate: Stick to using reputable dating sites and apps that offer adequate safeguards and oversight of user profiles. Be wary of anyone who wants to move conversations to private or encrypted channels outside of the dating platform.

Never isolate: Scammers will work to make their victims more vulnerable to manipulation by isolating them from friends and family. Don’t let them. Talk to friends or family members about your online relationship. They may notice red flags that you missed due to emotional involvement.

Never send money: Never ever send money. NEVER. No matter how compelling the story. Do not send money or gifts to anyone, especially someone you haven’t met. This is the cardinal rule.

You can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim to a romance scam by recalling these red flags associated with romance scammers and incorporating protective strategies developed to guard one’s heart and one’s assets.

Healing and Recovery: Navigating the Aftermath of Romance Scams

Romance scams can be emotionally devastating and financially ruinous for the victims. These scams prey on individuals seeking companionship and love, exploiting their vulnerability and trust. Often, the repercussions extend beyond financial losses, leaving lasting trauma and profound feelings of betrayal. It is important to remember that perpetrators of romance scams are master manipulators. These predators intentionally exploit those seeking love and companionship. If victimized, report the scam immediately and seek support from family, friends, and professional mental health providers.

While it’s nearly impossible to recover funds once sent, victims should report the incident right away. In reporting incidents, victims may help investigators and other fraud prevention specialists find the perpetrators.

Report the scam to:
  1. The banking institution
  2. Local law enforcement
  3. The FTC:
  4. The FBI:
  5. The dating website or app where the connection was formed

On the quest for meaningful love and connection, tread carefully and navigate with caution, safeguarding not just hearts but also personal and financial security.

The opinions expressed in this post are those of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of ABQ Mom, its executive team, other contributors to the site, its sponsors or partners, or any organizations the aforementioned might be affiliated with.

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Stephanie Telles
Stephanie W. Telles, a native New Mexican, is the product of its public schools, its rich diversity and culture, and of course its world famous chile. Happily married, she is a card-carrying member of the sandwich generation, caring for her smart and silly toddler and her mom who lives Alzheimer’s disease. Passionate about helping her community she currently serves on the Board for the Alzheimer’s Association and the City-County Library Advisory Board. She holds degrees from NMSU and UNM and as an entrepreneur, Stephanie is the founder and CEO of Otoño Consulting. Prior honors include the 2020 Diverse Business Leader award and the 2018 40 Under Forty.


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