Online Games and Romance Scams

Have you ever heard a story about a couple who first met while playing the popular online game Words With Friends? It has happened a few times. Two people become friends via the game’s chat feature, meet in person months or years later, and end up in a relationship. It happens, but it’s rare. Rare enough that articles are written about it.

However, there is a much more common scenario that plays out on WWF and other online games: the Romance Scam, where a victim is chatted up by a scammer pretending to be a fellow single. They convince their target to send money while offering numerous excuses why they can’t meet in person just yet. Thousands of dollars later, the victim hopefully realizes what has happened. Some victims never catch on because they have become so emotionally invested in believing the scammer’s claims (the Sunk Cost Fallacy at work). A lot of articles are beginning to be written about this as well.

What you’ll notice if you read a few accounts of the real, verified examples of love that began in a game chat, is that at no point did one person ask the other to wire money, provide banking details, purchase gift cards and relay the information back, or receive electronic fund transfers in their personal account then forward these payments to other people around the world. These stories do not involve months and years of excuses why one party was always unavailable to meet in person, or even to talk via a video call.

These are all examples of red flags. When a person claims to be interested in you, then begins asking for money, nothing about that interaction is as it seems. You are dealing with a scammer. You can even zoom out more than that: if they’re asking you to do ANYTHING involving money, that is not a potential match. It’s a scammer. Any excuse why you can’t see one another in a video chat is a red flag. Remember: photos of people or military ID cards are NOT verification of anything. Claims of financial hardship or of a high-level banking career that (of course!) require your assistance (“processing payments”) are a sure sign that you’re dealing with a romance scammer.

Don’t let emotional investment cloud your judgement. Don’t even get emotionally invested in the first place until you know the other person exists as advertised. Being alone can be lonely, but being lonely and broke because you sent your life savings to a scammer is much, much worse.