Fraud Talk: How to Identify and Avoid Sweetheart Scams


Fraud Talk: How to Identify and Avoid Sweetheart Scams

Fraud Talk: How to Identify and Avoid Sweetheart Scams

Looking for love in the modern world is hard enough without also fielding advances from scam artists. However, the anonymity of internet dating provides criminals with the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the openhearted. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) estimates that victims in the United States and Canada have lost over one billion dollars in just the last three years to sweetheart scams. The Savings Bank is dedicated to ensuring your money stays out of the wrong hands.


A sweetheart scam is when an individual creates a fake online profile to propagate romantic feelings before extorting money. While these scams most commonly happen on dating websites, scammers sometimes use Facebook and other social media to contact victims. Scammers will spend months building a relationship with their victims; they will learn about the victim’s family, hopes, dreams, and fears to learn how best to extort them. These extortion techniques include needing money for a sick family member, transportation to “meet” the victim, or an emergency.

The scammer will often ask victims to send money via prepaid cards or cryptocurrency to avoid easy detection. However, once the scammer gets the money from their victim, the scam is not always over. Far more nefarious is that victims can often become unwitting accomplices for other criminal activity, as scammers will use the victim to then launder money from other victims; commit credit card fraud, check fraud, renter fraud, or grandparent scams; and even to transport drugs.


Keeping informed and vigilant is the best way to identify sweetheart scammers. Common red flags to look for include:

  • Wanting to move conversation from the site quickly
  • Attempting to isolate you from friends and family
  • Being asked to keep the relationship a secret
  • “Love Bombing” with a quick, intense relationship
  • Asking you to receive a package or money before resending to a different country
  • Needing you to open or give access to a bank account
  • Claiming to be a native English speaker, but spelling and grammar are incorrect
  • Refusing video chats or meeting in person


Individuals aged forty to sixty-nine are the most common victims of sweetheart scams, according to the BBB. Scammers look for trusting, financially stable victims. Susceptibility to emotional manipulation also factors into victimization. There are many forms of emotionally manipulative personas scammers will employ, such as a struggling single parent, a dependent young person, or someone in a position of trust in the community. A few common examples are using fake military deployment or religious involvement to build trust with their victims before claiming to need funds while deployed or for fellow church members.


If you or a loved one are online dating, below are some tips to avoid becoming a victim of sweetheart scams.

  • Be careful with what you share on social media and dating sites.
  • Never share financial or personal banking information with a potential date.
  • Do not give in to pressure to act or send money immediately.
  • Never send money to someone you have not met face-to-face.
  • If you become suspicious, ask specific questions about their profile details.
  • Google your love interest and reverse image search dating profile pictures.
  • Refuse to send intimate pictures or videos to avoid blackmail.

Victims of sweetheart scams often feel misplaced shame or embarrassment, but The Savings Bank is here to help! If you become the victim of a sweetheart scam, please contact your financial institution, and file a report to as soon as possible.

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