Romance Scammers

Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact their targets through popular social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, or Google Hangouts. The scammers strike up a relationship with their targets to build their trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.

They’ll often say they’re living or traveling outside of the United States. We’ve heard about scammers who say they are

  • working on an oil rig
  • in the military
  • a doctor with an international organization

We’ve heard about romance scammers asking their targets for money to

  • pay for a plane ticket or other travel expenses
  • pay for surgery or other medical expenses
  • pay customs fees to retrieve something
  • pay off gambling debts
  • pay for a visa or other official travel documents

Scammers ask people to pay

  • By wiring money
  • Buying Bitcoin
  • Sending money through cashapp, venmo, paypal, zelle. 
  • Reoloadable cards like MoneyPak or gift cards from vendors like Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, or Steam

Scammers ask you to pay by wiring money, with reload cards, or with gift cards because they can get cash quickly and remain anonymous. They also know these transactions are almost impossible to reverse.

Here’s the bottom line: Never send money or gifts to a person you haven’t met in person.

If you suspect a romance scam

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately.

  • Report them to our support team. 

  • Talk to someone you trust, and pay attention if your friends or family say they’re concerned about your new love interest.

  • Do a search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.” You can also browse the comments on our blog posts about romance scams to hear other people’s stories:

Reporting A Romance Scam

If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money. If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at Get in touch with our Support Team and let us know about the user, their location, name, and any additional details you can provide. 

Sextortion Scams

Sextortion can start on any site, app, or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the first contact from the scammer will be a threat. The person may claim they already have a revealing picture or video of a child that they will share if the victim does not send more pictures. 

More often, however, this crime starts when people believe they are communicating with someone interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. The scammer will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce and send nude images.

After the criminal has one or more videos or pictures, they threaten to share or publish that content, or they threaten violence, to get the victim to produce more images. 

The shame, fear, and confusion people feel when they are caught in this cycle often prevents them from asking for help or reporting the abuse. 

Awareness and sensible safety practices online, along with a willingness to ask for help, can put an end to this exploitation.

  • Be selective about what you share online. If your social media accounts are open to everyone, a predator may be able to figure out a lot of information about you.

  • Be wary of anyone you encounter for the first time online. Block or ignore messages from strangers.

  • Be aware that people can pretend to be anything or anyone online. Videos and photos are not proof that a person is who they claim to be. Images can be altered or stolen.

  • Be suspicious if you meet someone and they ask you to start talking to them on a different platform.

  • Be in the know. Any content you create online—whether it is a text message, photo, or video—can be made public. And once you send something, you don’t have any control over where it goes next.

  • Be willing to ask for help. If you are getting messages or requests online that don’t seem right, block the sender, report the behavior to our Trust & Safety Team, and contact your local authorities.

Tips On Avoiding Scams

Never send money via gift card or wire transfer to someone you have never met face-to-face. Seriously, just don’t ever do it. If they ask you to use a wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, or a gift card, those cannot be traced and are as good as cash. Chances are, you won't see your money again.  See the FTC video on how scammers try to convince you to pay.  If someone is trying to convince you to pay this way, stop, get off the phone or the computer, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Report the activity to BBB Scam Tracker

Avoid clicking on links or moving your conversation to another website. This can be used to transmit malware or get you to a site where conversations can't be regulated and your information can be up for grabs. Scammers will ask you to go to KIK or Whatsapp or even snapchat to work towards scamming you further. 

Don’t believe everything you see or hear. Scammers are great at mimicking official language and lying about details. Just because they seem official does not mean that they are. Even caller ID and phone numbers can be faked. 

Use extreme caution when dealing with anyone you’ve matched with. They can quickly feel like a friend or even a romantic partner, but that is part of the con for you to trust them.

Never share personally identifiable information with someone who has contacted you unsolicited, whether it’s over the phone, by email, on social media, or even at your front door. This includes banking and credit card information, your birthdate, and Social Security/Social Insurance numbers.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Shady actors typically try to make you think something is scarce or that they are on an urgent time limit. They want to push victims to make a decision right now before even thinking through, asking family members, friends, or financial advisors. Sometimes, they'll advise avoiding contacting anyone and to just trust them. While high-pressure sales tactics are also used by some legitimate businesses, they aren't typically used in a relationship

Be cautious about what you share on social media.  Consider only connecting with people you already know. Check the privacy settings on all social media and online accounts. Imposters often get information about their targets from their online interactions and can make themselves sound like a friend or family member because they know so much about you. Then, update and change passwords to passphrases on a regular basis on all online accounts.