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The Anatomy of a Romance Scam

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It’s important to be wary of scammers looking to use emotion to get you out of your comfort zone and convince you to reveal personal information. Unlike other scams that happen solely online, romance scammers have also been known to call their victims. These types of scams are also known as catfishing.

Romance scammers will go to great lengths to gain your interest and trust, showering you with compliments, sharing what appears to be details about their life and emphasizing what you have in common. This process may take months as the scammer goes to great lengths to make the target fall in love.

Warning signs:

  • Their profile on the dating website or Facebook page is not consistent with what they tell you. For example, the images they use don’t match how they describe themselves, or they say they are university educated but their English is poor.
  • After gaining your trust, they tell you an elaborate story and ask for money, gifts or your bank account/credit card details.
  • They don’t keep their promises and always have an excuse for why they can’t travel to meet you and why they always need more money.
  • If you don’t send money straight away, their messages and calls become more desperate, persistent or direct. If you do send money, they continue to ask you to send more.

Protecting yourself:

  • When you meet someone online, always consider the possibility that s/he could be a scammer – particularly if any of the warning signs are present.
  • Perform a Google image search‡ of the individual who contacted you to see if the images consistently match to the name and aren’t featured on unusual websites.
  • If you agree to meet with an individual in person, always tell family and friends where you are going and how long you’re going to be away. Meeting in a public place is another way to protect yourself.
  • Be wary of money requests. Never send personal information that could be used to open up credit cards or accounts in your name, and carefully consider the possibility of a scam before you agree to give anyone money.

For more tips, visit StaySafeOnline.org‡, or visit UMB’s Security and Privacy page to help you stay current on security best practices.

romance scam infogrpahic

When you click links marked with the “‡” symbol, you will leave UMB’s website and go to websites that are not controlled by or affiliated with UMB. We have provided these links for your convenience. However, we do not endorse or guarantee any products or services you may view on other sites. Other websites may not follow the same privacy policies and security procedures that UMB does, so please review their policies and procedures carefully.


Ms. Flores serves as senior vice president and Chief Information Security Officer, providing oversight of UMB’s information security and privacy programs. She joined UMB in 2010 and more than 15 years of experience in information technology and information security. She attended Kansas State University with a focus on management information systems and is a Certified Information Security Manager (CISM), Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP/US) and Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA).


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  • A new book, “Combating Romance Scams, Why Lying to Get Laid Is a Crime!” provides a blue-print for a law that can bring romance scams to a screeching halt. And a network, The FORRSC, The Fight to Outlaw Rape and Romance Scams, is fighting to enact this law across the US and beyond. You can help by Googling The FORRSC, and signing on. It’s free!