WebsiteCompass 17 many people are too embarrassed to report the crime to authorities. Watch Out for Red Flags If the following scenarios look familiar, your “love connection”may be a scammer: • They profess their love too quickly. If they tell you they’re falling in love after just a few conversations, be suspicious. That only happens in Hallmark Christmas movies. • They work faraway. Some of the most common occupations claimed by romance scammers include oil rig workers, military personnel in an undisclosed location, and physicians practicing outside the U.S. • They ask for money for an emergency. Con artists will use sob stories of deaths in the family, injuries, or other hardships to keep their new love interests concerned and involved. Then they’ll ask for money to help them overcome a difficult financial situation. Gift cards and wire transfers are the most frequently reported payment methods. • They want to send you a large sum of money. Some criminals are looking for people to launder money for them that was gained unlawfully. If a romantic interest you’ve only known for a short while wants to send you a pile of money, don’t accept it and break off communications. • Their online profile seems a little too perfect. Their photos will display romantic vistas of them on a beach or atop the Eiffel Tower, they’ll look incredibly attractive, and they’ll have all the same likes and interests as you. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. • They prefer only written communication. Someone who refuses to do video calls —or will sit in low light rooms so it’s nearly impossible to see their face—is shady and can’t be trusted. Report Romance Scams If you believe you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, report the activity to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov or to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc. gov/#/. You should also contact your bank or credit card company if you discover fraudulent or suspicious transactions and notify the dating app or social media site where the contact began. Tips to Avoid Falling Victim to These Scams The best defense against romance scams is education and awareness. Follow these tips to avoid being fooled by a phony love interest: • Take it slowly and ask the other person lots of questions. A scammer may try to move things along quickly. • Trust your gut. If something feels off, it very well could be. Talk about the new relationship with trusted friends or family members and pay attention if they’re concerned. • Never send money, gift cards, or wire transfers to someone you haven’t met in person or give them your banking or credit card information. If you’re asked for money from someone you’ve only met online, the chances it’s fraud are extremely high. • Do a reverse image search of the person’ profile picture using Google’s “search by image” tool to see if it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up. Those are signs of a scam. • Cut off contact immediately if you suspect a romance scam. Take care to protect your heart and your wallet!