Finding love online went from being a tad taboo to quite common and this is why dating scams have become common as well.
3 in 10 Americans say they have used an online dating app, and 1 in 10 Americans say they have married or been in a committed relationship with someone they met online, according to PEW Research.
However, while it would be nice to swipe right and fall head over heels for someone, there’s a downside to online dating: Romance and dating scams. The Federal Trade Commission reported that victims lost $201 million to romance and dating scams in 2019, up almost 40 percent from 2018.
What are romance scams? This type of fraud involves bad actors who post fake profiles to online dating websites or apps. Other times, they will use messaging apps like Facebook messenger. Though they may steal your heart, what they’re actually after is your money. They lure victims in with a story, for example they are doing humanitarian work, and then ask for money for expenses like travel or healthcare. The victim, who is emotionally involved and eager to please, acquiesces and often loses thousands of dollars in the process.
You may think this could never happen to you, but unfortunately, some people are more susceptible to romance scams than others. Studies have shown that different personality traits make people more likely to fall for these types of scams. Understanding the characteristics of victims can help you protect yourself and your loved ones, and it can aid law enforcement and government officials in mitigating people’s risks.
Let’s take a look at what researchers have found does — and doesn’t — affect why people fall for dating scams.
Dating Scammers Use Words to Manipulate
Unfortunately, it’s common to victim-blame people who get caught up in romance scams. But the truth is, romance scammers are extremely manipulative and convincing. One study found that these bad actors speak about the relationship as “permanent” and propose marriage, often soon after initial contact. They also tell tragic stories, claiming that they lost their jobs or close family members recently died.
For a kind-hearted person, it may feel natural to help out. They also emphasize urgency when it comes to money by giving victims a deadline. These fast turnarounds make it difficult to think twice before wiring hundreds or thousands of dollars to someone.
Belief in Love
Believing in a thing called love can be a positive attribute. It allows you to open your heart to someone and share life’s ups and downs with them. But it can also leave you more vulnerable — not just to heartbreak but to a romance scam. One study found that people who idealize relationships are more likely to become romance scam victims. These beliefs could be why scammers move quickly to propose marriage or describe the relationship as permanent — they know their victim is likely a romantic at heart.
Personality Traits That Make People More Susceptible to Romance Scams
Researchers found that middle-aged women with strong traits of trustworthiness and impulsivity fit the profile of romance scam victims. Because they’re quick to trust (perhaps believing the best in people) and equally as quick to act (and hand over money without pausing to question the other person’s intent), scammers are able to con people who possess these traits.
Does Education Matter?
People may refer to dating scam victims as “stupid,” but researchers show that middle-aged women who have received higher education are at a higher risk of victimization. It’s important to note that victim-blaming is harmful, as it may prevent someone from getting the help they need. And ultimately, the blame falls on the bad actor for engaging in criminal activity.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of a romance scam, report it to the FTC or your local authorities.