DebtSafe Blog

Romance Fraud

Protect your heart and hard-earned money

Today’s modern world offers easy access to internet activities and engagements. And it is understandable that by now it is second nature for you to connect with people via the web. But, authorities are spreading a word of caution, specifically when it comes to pursuing online romance. The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) Country Security Report, highlights that deceitful love scams (Romance Fraud) are on the rise in South-Africa.

A romantic cyber-crime, commonly known as ‘Romance Fraud’, ‘Catfishing’ or a ‘Relationship Scam’ is when you get blindsided by someone or a group of fraudsters and unknowingly engage in a fake romantic relationship. You get emotionally manipulated to the point where sending your new love interest money seems the only way to show your love, commitment, support, and kindness. But, in the end, you are left with a broken heart, no money, and excessive debt.

Previously, the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) revealed a case of an online dating scammer’s shocking modus operandi that tricked men and women out of R13 000 000 within seven-plus years. The horror of ‘Romance Fraud’ has left innocent individuals paying a hefty price for love.

It is, therefore, important to guard your heart, protect your finances and stay alert to not fall prey to opportunists.  And, when it comes to your well-being and hard-earned money, prevention is better than cure.

Vital Questions You Need to Ask Yourself Before Falling Prey to Fake Love

As a precautionary measure, here is a list of questions that you should ask yourself before entering into (or continuing with) a new online romantic relationship:

  • What is your reason for using the specific online platform to connect with a person? It is important to stick to your goal (finding love/connection) and not get distracted by someone else’s selfish intentions.
  • Is your privacy (including your location details) protected, or being shared publicly for everyone to see? With the recent WhatsApp vs. Telegram concerns, you need to make sure that you manage your privacy settings the way you want to. And, make sure that you understand the platform’s policy regarding your personal information (and activities) being open to the public (or not).  
  • What is the extend of the information that you share about yourself while talking to/messaging your new love interest? There is no need to share details about your financial position or too much personal information with a new ‘familiar stranger’.
  • Have you verified everything about the information that you have been given about the person you are connecting with? Trust needs to be earned. It would be best not to believe everything from a one-sided opinion.  
  • Is there enough information about the person available on his/her online profile (a photo, hobbies etc.)? Strangers whose profiles have little information available should be treated with the utmost suspicion.
  • What is the profession (job) of the person that is showing interest? Experts say that in most scams, the perpetrator assumes the identity of someone who’s occupation requires them to travel often. For example, a military officer or a truck driver.
  • Is there anything in your requests or communication that they don’t want to do and that is concerning to you? Without even noticing, you can be ‘catfished’. It should raise concerns when your new interest does not want to do a video call with you, talk to you over the phone, can’t send a selfie in the moment, or it seems that they are only connecting with you (and no other individuals in real life).
  • Has the person/your new significant other formed a familiar pattern by contacting (harassing) you about their sudden difficult circumstances? Online scammers disclose a certain pattern in their behaviour/doings. One of which is to play on your emotions. You can be sure that it involves the partner experiencing a personal dilemma of some sort and that they need your money to help them out. Offering financial assistance to someone that you do not know very well should not be entertained.
  • Are you picking up/have you noticed that the communication and conversations are inconsistent? Remember: you may be talking to more than one individual. In various cases criminals work together for a syndicate.
  • Have you informed your close family and friends of your new online love? You have to be in close communication with your immediate support group, especially if you think that you may be taken for a ride.
  • Do you think that you are being scammed? Trust your gut. If you can confirm ‘yes’, immediately stop all communications. And, rather walk away.
  • If you have already been a victim of this typical love-related scam and lost money in the process – Did you report it to the authorities, and have you connected with a trusted source to help FIX your financial/debt situation safely? Being a victim of online love fraud is a bitter pill to swallow, but you can help prevent others from falling into the same pit. Let your voice be heard and create awareness to avoid similar cases in the future.

    Regarding your financial situation – if you are stuck with severe debt due to being scammed, make sure that you contact a reliable and registered Debt Counsellor, such as DebtSafe, to take hands to help you FIX YOUR DEBT safely and securely.

Be vigilant when using cyber technology as your communication platform to find new love. Remember: Love does not come with financial conditions. You are worthy of affection, without having to pay for it.