Romance Scams

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A romance scam, also known as an online dating scam or cyber romance scam, is a type of confidence trick that aims to defraud victims into sending money, gifts, or personal information under the guise of a romantic relationship. Scammers create fake online profiles on dating websites or social media platforms, often using stolen or doctored photos, and engage in an elaborate courtship to gain the victim's trust and affection.[1][2][3]

The Commodity Futures Trading Commission website claims "International criminal gangs have defrauded Americans of over $3.5 billion through a sophisticated online scam involving financial grooming (a.k.a. romance fraud or crypto investment fraud)."[4]

Modus Operandi[edit]

Romance scammers typically follow a pattern of behavior:

  • Establishing contact: The scammer creates a fake profile on a dating site or social media platform, often using an attractive photo and fabricated personal details. They initiate contact with potential victims, expressing romantic interest.
  • Building rapport: The scammer engages in lengthy conversations, sharing stories and personal information to build an emotional connection and gain the victim's trust. They may claim to be working overseas, in the military, or facing hardships to explain their inability to meet in person.
  • Requesting money: Once the victim is emotionally invested, the scammer fabricates an emergency or hardship and asks for financial assistance, often for travel expenses, medical bills, or legal fees. They may also request money for investment opportunities or to help move funds out of their country.
  • Continuing the cycle: If the victim complies, the scammer will continue to make up new stories and reasons to request more money, prolonging the scam until the victim runs out of funds or becomes suspicious.

Psychological Manipulation[edit]

Romance scammers employ various psychological tactics to manipulate their victims:

  • Love bombing: Overwhelming the victim with excessive affection, flattery, and promises of a future together to create a strong emotional bond.
  • Isolation: Encouraging the victim to cut ties with friends and family who may raise concerns about the relationship.
  • Gaslighting: Denying or minimizing the victim's concerns and making them question their own judgment.
  • Guilt and obligation: Manipulating the victim into feeling guilty or obligated to provide financial assistance.

Victims and Impact[edit]

Romance scams can affect individuals of any age, gender, or background, but often target those who are lonely, vulnerable, or seeking companionship. The emotional and financial impact on victims can be devastating, leading to significant financial losses, emotional trauma, and damaged self-esteem. Many victims are reluctant to report the crime due to embarrassment or a lingering belief in the relationship.

To avoid becoming a victim, it is crucial to be cautious when interacting with strangers online, never send money or personal information to someone you have not met in person, and be wary of requests for financial assistance, especially early in a relationship.


Video: Inside the FBI Podcast: For the Love Of Money

Video: Romance scam victim speaks to HSI about her experience and advice for others who may be targets.


  1. Romance Scams. U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation.
  2. What to Know About Romance Scams. U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
  3. Stay Safe Online: Avoid Romance Scams. United States Secret Service.
  4. Romance Frauds. U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission.