If you meet someone online or through a dating app who offers to send you money, don’t accept their generosity. It’s likely the latest twist on romance scams.
The Better Business Bureau has received reports of con artists reaching out to people and offering to be a “sugar momma” or “sugar daddy.” They say they’ll help pay bills, but what they are really trying to do is trick victims into paying them or sharing their personal information.
Here’s what to know about the latest twist on romance scams and how to avoid this con.
How the new romance scam works
According to BBB, scammers are sending messages through dating and social media apps offering to be a sugar momma or sugar daddy. They claim that they will pay a weekly allowance of hundreds or even thousands of dollars in return for your affection.
Scammers will send a check and tell you to keep most of the money as your allowance. However, they will ask that you send some of the money to their needy friend, use it to purchase a gift card or make a donation to a particular charity. In some cases, scammers asked to be paid back for transaction and processing fees.
The problem is, the checks that are sent are fake. But victims don’t find out until they’ve already sent their own money to other accounts or fake charities. “I believed that these checks were legit and the funds were real,” one victim told BBB Scam Tracker. “I ended up just sending my own personal money to these contacts ... which ended up costing me $19,500.”
In other versions of this scheme, scammers have asked victims to give them access to their bank accounts so they can deposit money. One victim told BBB: “He made the deposit and my account got restricted. The bank needed his verification, and he refused to give it unless I [gave] him my SSN and ID.”
How to avoid this romance scam
Be wary of anyone who is offering to be your sugar momma or sugar daddy. However, scammers might not use these specific terms, so the BBB recommends taking these steps in case their stories vary.
- Exercise caution with online dating. If you connect with someone online through a dating or social media website, be wary of anyone who makes excuses not to meet in person. Scammers often claim that they are working overseas or traveling and can’t meet with you. Also, do a reverse image search to see if the profile image of the person who has contacted you is stolen from somewhere else. Go to images.google.com, click on the camera icon and paste the image url or upload the image from your computer to see what name or names are commonly associated with the image. If the search results reveal that several names are associated with the image, it’s a red flag.
- Never send money or share your personal information with someone you haven’t met in person. Even if they claim that they love you, it’s a red flag if they start asking for money, access to your bank or credit card account or for your Social Security number or personal information. Talk to someone you trust before sending any money or personal information to someone you have met only online.
- Understand how check deposits work. If someone asks you to deposit a check and send a portion of the money elsewhere, you’ll be the one out of money if the check is fraudulent. Banks are required by law to make the first $225 of a personal check available the next business day, but it can take longer for the check to fully clear. If you spend the money before the check fully clears and it turns out to be fake, the bank can recover the funds from you.
It’s also a good idea to put protective measures in place in case your personal or account information ends up in the wrong hands. Considering using a financial safety service such as Carefull, which provides 24/7 account, credit and identity monitoring and can alert you to suspicious transactions and signs of fraud. Try Carefull for free for 30 days.
[ Keep Reading: How to Spot and Avoid Romance Scams ]