Identity Theft from a Romance Scam: Protect Yourself in 2021

Identity theft is widespread in today’s world, and online dating is no stranger to it. Let’s read about ways to protect yourself from this.

Online dating scams have been around for many years, even more so significantly in the past decade. Most romance scams consist of the victims being scammed out of their money. 

However, some scammers pass this and go all the way to identity theft. The most common ones are military, visa, and emergency scams throughout our time reporting various scams. 

They create extravagant or simple lies and try their best to convince you they’re truthful. 

By stealing your identity, scammers open a world of illegal possibilities, which would otherwise be nearly impossible to do without American status, assuming they’re foreign.

In this article, we’re going to cover why they do this and how you can protect yourself from it. Let’s dive into it!


Why They Steal Your Identity

To Open New Accounts

The primary reason for identity theft is to open accounts in your name. Most online dating scammers are located in third world countries such as Nigeria or Indonesia. 

This gives them a firm reason to pull off the scam; they have nothing to lose. By stealing your identity, they can open bank accounts, take out foreign loans, and more, all on your behalf. 

Luckily, most banks are cautious when providing loans, etc. Despite this, it isn’t always enough to prevent such a scam from occurring. 

They Become an Imposter 

The second reason, which is also common, is to act as an imposter. They could “steal” your identity by creating a fake profile, utilizing A.I software, or number spoofing. 

Identity theft doesn’t just come in the form of SSN theft. In fact, there has been a ten-fold increase in fake profiles on social media; it works, which is why the scammers continue to do it. 

They could also contact your job, bank, or other private aspects of your life and attempt to change payment methods to cash out.

Blackmail

Blackmail is also another common practice of romance scammers. Blackmail is the act of taking something private from the victim, then threatening to expose it to the public if not rewarded. 

He may ask you to send a few spicy photos, which is where this scam begins. The images are used to blackmail you.

If you do not pay him the requested amount or threaten to report him stealing your identity, they’re sent out to each of your friends and family. This is why you should never send these kinds of photos.


What To Do If Your Identity Gets Stolen

Report It To The Authorities 

The first action you should do if your identity has been stolen is to report it to the FTC, the  authorities, and any banks, loans, or other creditors that could be affected by identity theft. 

If your identity has been stolen only on social media, report the profile(s). You should also tell your friends and family to block the profile and report it as well. 

Reporting them may not get the scammers into trouble, particularly due to common third world government, but it will keep you safe from legal trouble in most cases; the faster, the better! 

If you do not report it as soon as it occurs, it could do permanent damage to your identity, and at the very least, leave damage that costs a lot of money to repair. 

We should note that most identity theft cases aren’t permanent but do not risk waiting to report it. If you notice anything that’s off or out of place, let the right people know.

Disregard Threats

If the scammers start threatening you, such as “If you don’t approve this bank authorization, I’ll default your loan,” he’s untruthful. 

It’s just a threat to try and gain access to your accounts; it’s used when they’re unsuccessful on their own. 

For the scammers to access certain things such as bank accounts, they may use a few blackmail tactics to make you follow through with the demand. 

This is common, and the majority of the time, it’s just intimidation. It’s not worth handing over your information; if the scammers want it, they will get it. This is common before your identity is actually stolen.

In some instances, they may act as if they know specific aspects of your identity, such as which school you went to and which teacher you had, which is easily found via a quick online search.

Set up Fraud Alerts

Fraud alerts are a great way to avoid getting into any more trouble after your identity has been stolen. To set up a fraud report, head over to your credit report. 

The credit report should have a few options for reporting fraud, as well as setting up fraud alerts. Fraud alerts work by alerting you of anything regarding your credit. 

To proceed, you must approve the notification; otherwise, it’s reported to the credit agency and, if needed, the feds. This is the best way to avoid falling into a deeper hole. 

Fraud alerts are by far the best first line of defense because instead of finding out days, weeks, or months later, you’re alerted instantly. 

This is why we suggest using them, which are covered in richer detail further into the article.


How To Avoid Identity Theft

Keep Private Information Private

It’s much more common than you think for unknowing victims to hand over their social security numbers to their new love. 

If you are asked for information regarding your SSN, banking info, or other information such as your location and how long you have resided there, do not give it to them. 

The first few are obvious, but answering questions like that or “where you were born” are common questions in security checks online.

You’d be surprised at how little is needed to get into a locked account. 

Merely giving your email over to a scammer is enough for them to run a few programs, exposing the password for them to have a field day within all of your accounts.

Utilize Lifelock

Lifelock has been around since the mid-2000s; it’s saved countless people from a lifelong misery of flawed credit and financial ruin. Lifelock, for starters, monitors your credit; full circle. 

If anyone, including you, attempts to open any new accounts or make significant changes, LifeLock alerts you. If it’s not you, simply go through the process to protect yourself. 

They also provide a VPN, which can certainly help prevent identity theft in particular situations. They also allow their users to lock their credit files, which is essential, as we’ve covered. 

Furthermore, they protect from scammers taking over your phone, which can be done quickly with the right software and person, a massive security threat. 

They even offer several financial protection packages if you get your identity stolen, up to $1 million.

Avoid Phishing & Viruses

A very easy way to get your identity stolen is by clicking what is known as a “phishing link.” These links are made to look identical to specific sites. 

For example, let’s assume your online love wants to work his way into your bank account. He may ask you to log into your bank account to give him your routing number to send you money. 

At this time, he sends over the link to what looks like your bank. The website that the link takes you to, though, is only a clone. 

The clone is set up, so it saves and sends over any entered info, such as your email, user id, and password. 

If you enter your info, the scammer gets access instantly to your bank account or any other account he’s attempting to get into, such as credit accounts.


A Few Tips

Reset Your Devices

It’s not uncommon for individuals to have leftover viruses on their devices after identity theft occurs. Viruses can sit and continue collecting data, such as keyboard strokes. 

You can back up your important documents onto a cloud or hard drive and check for viruses; then, factory reset your device to avoid potential problems. 

In some cases, this may not work as some viruses are very smart, but most viruses cannot make it past a factory reset, making it worthwhile.

Research Identity Theft

If you have had your identity stolen, it’s time to start researching how to protect yourself. There are several ways to start, such as using Lifelock.

However, there is much more than using a few pieces of software. For starters, turn on two-factor authentication if possible on all your accounts.

Two-factor authentication requires you to not only sign in via email and password but also requires a secondary login, such as inputting a code on the login page sent to your cell phone.

Secure Your Accounts

Many people use one password to secure their accounts. This makes it easier for your identity to get stolen. If you use just one password, all of your accounts are exposed if it’s compromised.

You should also make your password very complicated by using letters, numbers, and special characters. To combat the difficulty of remembering it, use a password manager.

Many hackers gain access to accounts by using specific software or scripts. If you use a complex and unique password for each account, you’ll be much safer.


Follow these steps to remain safe

Record Keeping: Save detail records of your conversations and copies of all correspondence

Police Report: Make a police report if your identity has been stolen, keep a copy of the police report for your records

Close Accounts: If you gave your scammer your banking information, and/ or credit card information you will need to close your accounts:

  • If there has been activity on your accounts ask the bank how to dispute transactions. Get proof it has been disputed.
  • Call or go to the security or fraud department of each bank. Make sure to bring with you copies of supporting documents (e.g., emails, IMs, items received in the mail).
  • If you gave your personal or family member info, then you will need to make sure that each person submits a fraud alert on their accounts.

Place Fraud Alerts: You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert.

Credit Report Check: Ask for a free copy of your credit report and go over the report, look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you haven’t opened or recent new debts. If you find a thing that is not supposed to be there get it removed. Continue to check your credit reports for at least a year after being scammed.

To place an alert on your credit report, or to have them removed, you will be required to provide appropriate proof of your identity: that may include your Social Security number, name, address and other personal information.


Takeaway

Identity theft has been occurring for as long as virtual identity has existed. It even existed before the modern ages, just in different forms. 

Online dating is no stranger to this either; thousands of unexpecting victims get their identity stolen from online profiles every year. 

Most times, the scammer doesn’t ask for money but instead gains your trust to steal your identity first. These steps will undoubtedly help prevent most identity theft.



Written by Bryan Rucker

Brian Rucker writes about all things related to online dating and lifestyle. He has written hundreds of articles, specializing in online dating scams, and has written other fun and exciting topics in the online dating space. Read more of Bryan's articles.

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