One of my favorite memories growing up is of my best friend introducing me to the classic movie, Grease. It was a girl’s night, sleepover-style, with blankets on the floor, wet polish on our nails and ice cream sundaes in our tummies. We were hooked, fixated on the Pink Ladies, the songs and of course following Frenchie’s beauty school journey.
One of the iconic songs of the movie, and my personal favorite, goes like this, “Summer lovin’, had me a blast. Summer lovin’, happened so fast.” The love story of Danny and Sandy may have had its dramatic ups and downs, but in the end (spoiler alert!) they ended up living happily ever after. This made my pre-teen heart so happy!
But unfortunately, in life, that’s not quite how all love stories go. A local Idaho woman had her heart broken after she met, who seemed to be, an eligible bachelor on a popular online dating app. The woman started chatting with someone in Ohio, who claimed to be a commander in the Army. After weeks of conversations, the man said he needed $1,500 to access his retirement. He asked the Boise woman to wire him the money in his time of need. Unfortunately, she sent part of it.
When she started to recognize red flags, she questioned the man about his intentions and identity. Soon after, she started getting texts from someone claiming to represent the Ohio Police Department stating they had verified the identity of the man she’d been talking to and confirmed he “is a good person and that it is OK to resume dating him.” That’s when she knew it was a ruse.
She eventually cut off communication with the man she thought she was dating. But she was still out $500. Not to mention the emotions and time she invested in this person.
It’s a classic tale, not of a love story, but of a romance scam. And it often works like this:
Most romance scams start with fake profiles on online dating sites created by stealing photos and text from real accounts or elsewhere. Scammers often claim to be in the military or working overseas to explain why they can’t meet you in person. Over a short period of time, the scammer builds a fake relationship with you, exchanging photos and romantic messages, even talking on the phone or through a webcam.
Just when the relationship seems to be getting serious, your new sweetheart has a health issue, family emergency, or wants to plan a visit. No matter the story, the request is the same: they need money. But after you send money, there’s another request, and then another. Or the scammer stops communicating altogether.
BBB offers these tips to help spot the scam:
▪ Be wary of someone who always has an excuse to postpone a meeting. Someone really interested in a relationship will want to see you in person. Be wary of someone who is constantly “traveling” or happens to be overseas.
▪ Be careful what you share, and don’t share money. Even if you are tempted to help an online friend, never send money or reveal personally identifiable information to someone you have not met in person or have not verified as reliable.
▪ Take note if your romantic interest has a photo that doesn’t match his/her profile. Lots of people fib in their dating profile, adding an inch of height or subtracting 10 pounds. But be on the lookout for big discrepancies. For example, a scammer may describe their fake persona as blonde but uses a photo of a brunette. Or they may forget certain details they previously shared.
Don’t let your summer dreams get ripped at the seams — safeguard your heart, and your wallet, by being cautious.