Dating in the 21st Century: How to Spot an Online Romance Scam This Valentine’s Day



Mandy Moody, CFE
ACFE Content Manager

I vividly remember how I felt on my first date. I was 15 years old (now that I have kids, I don’t know what my parents were thinking letting me go), and my body was still catching up to my forehead. My long-time crush of about two weeks drove to pick me up in a black Pontiac Grand Am that had a white Oakley sticker on the back window. He was one year older and was one of the few boys at my school who had a car…that worked.

We drove to our school’s holiday band concert at a local club and then went for pizza. I couldn’t tell you what we talked about or many details about the evening because all I remember were the Olympic games going on in my stomach. I was about as nervous as he was cool; and he was really cool.

As you may have guessed, it didn’t last forever. He left me for my best friend and I cried for a few hours. Such is life. But, looking back at how dating played out for me in the 90s makes me feel somewhat relieved considering the new challenges online dating poses to those currently on the hunt for someone special. In fact, the U.S. FBI released an awareness message for online daters this Valentine’s Day highlighting ways to spot a romance scam.

The tips include:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
  • Go slow and ask a lot of questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating service or Facebook to go “offline.”
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family or requests. Inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally.

Everyone wants love, but don’t let your heart fool your brain. If someone sounds too good to be true, they likely are. Even the most intelligent people can fall victim to a suave scammer, so if you believe you are a victim of a romance scam, you can file a complaint online at