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Online dating sites and apps have made it easier than ever to put yourself out there in the search for love. They've also made it convenient for so-called sweetheart scammers to prey on unsuspecting victims for their money or identity credentials so they can swindle them down the road.
In fact, the FBI reports that in 2016—the most recent year for which data is available—romance scams cost American consumers more than 0 million. The actual number may be even higher, because often people are too embarrassed to report such incidents.
Oftentimes these are signs that something is wrong.
A surprisingly common tactic scammers employ is to put you on the defensive, says Velasquez.
"Remember that romance scams are a confidence game, so these folks are going to appear to have all the desirable traits.
They are going to tailor their online personas to meet your needs." Velasquez adds that scammers aren't just after your money.
"Limit what you share about yourself online—that includes your dating profile," says Velasquez.
They might also be after your identity credentials or other personally identifying information.
"They can use your money once, but they can use your identity for the rest of your life," she says.
It can be easy to assume everyone is out there for the same reason you are—to find a love connection.
But it's smart to go into the process with a healthy dose of skepticism.
“That big investment gives victims a false sense that the relationship must be real.” Eventually a pitch for money comes.