How to Stop a Romance Scam in its Tracks

Millions of people go online in search of romance, and while it does work out for a lot of folks, there are also plenty of fishy people lying in wait, pretending to be interested in a relationship for the sole purpose of stealing your money (or having you become the only traceable link in a money-laundering scheme). Here are three warning signs you do not want to ignore.

For most people, the entire point of being in a relationship is to eventually occupy the same physical  space as one another; in other words, to make googly eyes at each other in person (presumably while drinking a chocolate malt with two straws while Bill Haley and his Comets plays on the jukebox) rather than online. If your attempts to arrange to meet someone in real life (in a well-lit, public place, after letting other people know where you’re going and whom you’re meeting) are repeatedly met with last-moment excuses why they can’t show up, it is time to suspect that the person you’ve been talking to is not who they claim to be.

On a similar note, another common feature of romance scams is a list of excuses for why the other person cannot talk via video chat. They’re always in an area with a poor internet connection, or they’re just too busy with their extremely successful career to show their face in real-time video. They’ll send photo after photo, but when it comes to seeing each other over FaceTime or Zoom, there is always a reason they can’t…just yet. Of course, what is really happening is that they are not even remotely who they claim to be, and video chatting would spoil the illusion.

Finally, as soon as the person you’re communicating with brings up money or checks, whether they’re asking you to send money to them, receive money and distribute it to others, cash a check for them and return the funds via wire transfer, something involving CashApp or Zelle or PayPal…anything, at any time, for any supposed reason, this confirms that you are talking to a scammer. As painful as it can be to realize you’ve been tricked, stop all contact immediately, and do not accept any further communication from them. There is no salvaging the “relationship” because there never was one. It’s over.