During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are trying online dating for the first time. Unfortunately, scammers are looking to take advantage of that.

Especially during Valentine’s Day and the season of love, singles looking to make that special love connection via an online dating app need to be particularly aware of online romance scams.

MatchGroup, which owns some of the most popular dating brands such as Tinder, Hinge and OkCupid, has recorded an increase in users throughout the pandemic. As the use of these online platforms has increased, so has the number of reported romance scams. The number of losses from the scams has likewise steadily increased as well.

Romance scammers start by using someone else’s identity to create fake profiles. They can send you positive messages to make a special connection, say all the right things and gain your trust. They might claim to be a doctor, a service member or an oil rig worker living overseas.

They want to make future plans with you. But then, something comes up, and they ask you for money to help them out. This nearly always means asking you to buy gift cards (and give them the PIN, so they get the cash) or wiring them money.

Romance scams on the rise

The Federal Trade Commission has reported the number of romance scams have nearly tripled in the last five years. Even more, the total amount of money people reported losing in 2019 is six times higher than it was five years ago – from $33 million lost to romance scammers in 2015 to $201 in 2019. People reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC.

What can you do to help protect yourself?

If you are looking for romance online, here’s how you can help protect yourself:

  • Never send money or personal information to someone you’ve never met in person.
  • Ask specific questions about details given in online dating profiles.
  • Use a reverse image lookup to confirm the picture is real.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or social media site to communicate directly.
  • Be careful what you post and make public online. Scammers can use details shared on social media and dating sites to understand better and target you.

Being a victim of an online romance scam can put your personal details at risk. During this time of cybercrime growth, credit and identity monitoring can help scan for signs of potential fraud.