How to prevent yourself from a love scam in 3 minutes!

5 things to look out for and 3 ways to prevent yourself from becoming a victim.

Malaysians seem quite open to online dating, with a survey conducted by YouGov back in 2017 stating that 3 in 10 Malaysians are actively on or have used online dating apps. Fun fact — two founders of The Coffee Break met their current partner from dating apps. Another fun fact — according to the global marketing and analytics firm App Annie, Malaysians spent a total of RM24 million on online dating apps in 2019 to find their perfect match.

A not-so-fun fact Malaysians lost RM58.33 million in 2020 due to love scams, with 1,583 cases reported during the year.

If you started using email in the early 2000s, you would definitely have received at least one Nigerian Prince email asking for help, and in return, he would pay you back with a lot of money.

Love scams are pretty similar to Nigerian Prince scams which the scammers employed social engineering. Social engineering is a manipulation technique that exploits human error to gain private information, access, or valuables. However, for love scams, you don’t only lose money, but you get heartache too.

Here are 5 pointers on how to avoid being a victim of love scams!

Looking out for the warning signs:

  1. The relationship is moving fast. The scammer professes their love to you one week after meeting you online. If you’re someone that has been out of love for a while, it sure feels good to hear the three magic words — I Love You. They will shower you with compliments to make you say the three words back to them too.

    Some even ask you to marry them. So please don’t fall for it and ignore those three magical words for now. Don’t simply trust people you meet online so easily!

  2. Oftentimes, the scammers would be in another country or somewhere far away, such as working on an oil rig, being in the military deployed overseas, a doctor in an international organisation, and so on.

    Why? Because the scammers are indicating that they are wealthy (in high-paying jobs) and are not mobile. This brings us to the next two points.

  3. Their profile seems too good to be true — a doctor that looks like Pierce Brosnan or Halle Berry (sorry, I’ve just watched Die Another Day) probably doesn’t exist. Even if they do, they are probably attached or unlikely to end up on a dating site. A legitimate dating profile would include more details and often shows more than just a face, so don’t fall for a Bond-like looking doctor.

    If the scammers already target you, they may ‘align’ their interests and hobbies similar to yours to catch your attention. Just be mindful. The similarities might be too good to be true.

  4. If you really love someone, you would want to see them as soon as possible right? Nope, not your scammers. Romance scammers would never want to meet you, and that is why they will break promises to visit. They will also refrain from video chats and phone calls. So all your communication is mainly via email or text messages.

    Some may even ask you to buy their flight tickets or pay for their visas but cancel at the very last minute. And you being the generous person you are, will forgive them simply because you are in love. Don’t.

  5. The final warning sign — your ‘love interest’ begins asking for money in return for more money. They will need money from you to an intermediary from holding the money they promised to give you. Doesn’t make sense.

    Romance scammers would also ask for money for medical expenses, cash flow for their business or even gambling debts. You will do anything to see your ‘love interest’ in painful situations when you are in love. Being the generous person, you do whatever it takes to get them out of their predicament at your own expense.

    Oh — another trick your cyber sweetheart likes to do is to ask you to send them money in specific payment methods such as wire transfer or a newly-established bank account in your name. But, of course, once you have done that, you will never see your money back.

I’m very vigilant one la, won’t fall for love scams so easily. I am 28 years old, smart enough to see through the tricks.

— Your Average Jane or Joe

Let’s see some recent headlines revolving around love scams:

Love is such a powerful emotion, so it’s no wonder people are susceptible to love scams. From these headlines, we can tell, anyone can be a victim. A con artist or fraud syndicate will target anyone, regardless of their age, ethnicity, religion or background.

Follow these 3 straight forward rules to avoid being a victim:

  1. Slow down. Take a step back and evaluate the situation, don’t let the scammer rush you into things. Realise when it is too good to be true. Recognise the red flags above.

    Great relationships take time to flourish! Damn, almost like dating advice.

  2. Do not give money to your ‘lover’ you have never met in person. You won’t get it back. Even when you’re dating a relatively new person you’ve met in real life — think about it, would you give the person money? The answer should be NO.

    Don’t pity the ‘lover’. Outsource their asks for help. Ask them to get their shit together on their own. You are dating to look for love, not to give handouts.

    Do not send your sexy photos to strangers you meet online. We know it can get a little lonely during the lockdowns but don’t be naughty naughty! You don’t want to be caught with your pants down, literally. The scammers would use your compromised photos to extort you into paying them money.

  3. Identify red flags. If someone is unwilling to meet you in person or do online video calls, something is fishy. When the profile is questionable, get a second opinion. Share with your friends about this person you’ve met and see what they say about them.

    If you want to take more precautions, do your snooping. KYC — know your c, oh wait. We meant, we KYP — know your partner. Find out more about this person and ask them about their background. Verify the information provided. Even when dating a real person, you should KYP properly before getting more serious.

Here’s a little infographic we put together that you could share with your family and friends. This is something that is actually WhatsApp worthy so spread infographics instead of fake news. It takes less than three minutes to read.

We hope you found this useful. Meanwhile - if you want to stay informed, you SHOULD subscribe to our weekday newsletter covering local and global news. We make it fun and easy to read. So get The Coffee Break first thing in the morning before you start your day!

Thank you.