Tips to Protect Yourself from Social Engineering Like Romance Scams
keeping-my-information-safe | Read Time: 3 minutes
By Robert Eastwood | Published: May 2023
Love is in the air as wedding season heats up alongside the weather.
But if you’re the unlucky victim of social engineering, which is when scammers manipulate their victims psychologically to get them to provide sensitive information, you may be left with more than just a broken heart.
One type of social engineering in particular, romance scams, cost victims $1.3 billion in 2022, according to the Federal Trade Commission, so it is vital to remain vigilant of social engineering tactics.
What is a Romance Scam?
In these scams:
- Scammers learn about you via publicly available information from social media and other apps.
- Then they create a fake identity and contact you via social media or dating apps.
- Romance scammers work to build trust and a “loving” relationship with victims. These scams tend to be long and drawn out, with scammers communicating with victims for months, but finding reasons why they can’t meet in person or video chat, such as being abroad for work or in the military, having poor internet connection or a broken camera, to avoid you finding out their profile photos are not actually them.
- Then they ask for money to help with things like medical bills or paying their rent because they’re short that month, or even for an investment in their “business venture.”
- Asking for money through gift cards or cryptocurrency payments are other red flags.
How Can I Protect Myself from Romance Scams?
It is important to:
- Use social media and dating sites with caution and never overshare personal information until you’ve met in person and established sincere trust.
- Mark your social media profiles as private, only accept connection requests from those you know and hide your friend lists where possible.
- If you’re suspicious of the person you’re communicating with, reverse image search their profile photos on Google to identify if their photos are used elsewhere, like a profile with an entirely different identity.
- Never send money to someone you don’t know personally or haven’t met in person.
What to Do If You’re the Victim of Fraud
If you’ve been scammed:
- File a police report and an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission immediately.
- Contact your financial institutions to freeze your accounts, get new account numbers and debit/credit cards, and take a close look at your statements to report any fraudulent charges.
Sometimes love hurts. But with the proper vigilance, you can avoid a romance scam and ensure it doesn’t hurt your pocketbook too.
About the Author – Robert Eastwood
Robert Eastwood is Senior Vice President, Chief Information Security Officer at WSFS Bank. He has more than 24 years of experience in the information security field, including nearly 20 years at WSFS, most recently as Vice President, Information Security Officer, where he developed and executed a multi-year strategic plan for Information Security. He also holds a number of professional certifications and memberships in the Information Services, IT and financial services fields.
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