Love is in the air, and so are the scams!
As we celebrate Valentine’s Day this month and spread the love, it’s important to remind your customers that not everyone online has good intentions. Romance scams, also known as sweetheart scams, are a growing threat to those seeking companionship online. While it may seem like a match made in heaven, in reality, it’s a potential nightmare to hearts and wallets.
Here, we’ll explore what romance scams are and how to help your customers avoid falling victim to these sweet but deceitful scams.
Romance scams are a type of fraud that preys on individuals who are seeking love or companionship online. They may join an online dating site, download a dating app, or even meet someone randomly across social media and begin chatting with someone who seems like a great match. The two may hit it off and start talking more frequently, building up a strong emotional connection.
After a few weeks, the scammer will come up with an excuse to ask for money, such as needing help with a medical emergency or paying for a plane ticket to come see the victim. Once the victim sends the money, the scammer disappears, leaving the victim heartbroken and financially devastated. Victims can lose significant amounts of money and suffer emotional distress, while banks can face reputational damage if they fail to protect their customers from these types of scams.
Fortunately, there are several ways that banks can help protect their customers from falling for or digging out of a romance scam.
Ongoing Financial Education
Although Valentine’s Day is a popular time for talking about romance scams, banks can educate customers about these types of scams throughout the year. Banks can use their websites, social media, apps, and other communication channels to provide information about what to look for, how to avoid, and how to report these types of scams no matter the time of year. By providing customers with this information, banks can raise awareness about the potential risks of online dating and help reduce the chances that their customers will become victims of romance scams.
Monitoring of customer accounts for suspicious activity year-round can help provide an extra layer of protection. This can include looking for unusual transactions such as large wire transfers to foreign countries, multiple smaller transactions that are out of the ordinary for the customer, transfer of money to finance apps known for being utilized by scammers, etc.
Some customers may find it frustrating that their account or credit card status is disrupted when a potential fraudulent transaction is identified, however it is important to let them know that these disruptions and pattern identification techniques are designed to protect them, not to inconvenience them.
Fraud Protection Services
Although the types of services offered by financial institutions vary, offering any proactive protection service can help protect customers before a scam takes place. A range of services can be provided to customers such as fraud alerts sent to them when suspicious activity is detected on their account, the option of freezing their account, canceling their credit or debit cards, or even in-app services allowing them to monitor their accounts and transactions on-demand. Banks may also offer identity theft protection that monitors credit reports and other financial activity for signs of fraud.
Law Enforcement & Investigation
Finally, banks can work with law enforcement and other organizations to investigate and prosecute romance scammers. This can include sharing information about suspicious activity and providing support to victims who have fallen for a scam. By working together with law enforcement and other organizations, banks can help to bring romance scammers to justice, reduce the number of victims who fall for these types of scams, and continue to provide your customers with the ultimate peace-of-mind that you’re on their side.
Romance scams are a year-round (and significant) threat to individuals and financial institutions alike. Consistently researching these types of scams and their ongoing evolutions across the ever-growing landscape of social media and technology will only continue to solidify you and your financial institution as an industry leader.
The Financial Fraud Consortium is a membership-based group of industry experts dedicated to identifying, detecting, and helping your business become aware and proactive in protecting you and your business against many types of complex fraud.
Members of the Financial Fraud Consortium gain access a variety of benefits including:
- Access to our library of educational resources webinars, white papers, and alerts
- Networking with like-minded companies
- Leadership opportunities in helping to adopt best practices around risk and fraud prevention
- Visibility as a leader in fighting fraud and decreasing your overall risks