Most people have had their share of dating horror stories—bad breath, rude behavior, maybe a blind date gone wrong. But what about a date that ends up stealing thousands of dollars?
Imagine finding that perfect someone. The glass slipper fits and the first few months are perfect—romantic dates, deep conversations and maybe even a blissful vacation. And then you find out that special someone has been using your Social Security number to open dozens of new credit cards.
Think it couldn’t happen to you? Whitney K. thought so, too.
Far From a Fairytale
Whitney ended up spending nine months of her life with a man who drove expensive cars, took her on luxurious vacations and stole thousands of dollars of her hard-earned money.
“It kind of hurt; other people tell me how I could be so naive. But they don’t know the lengths this person was going to,” Whitney explains. Her boyfriend had created fake online profiles, a fake work website and his family was even in on his game. (Whitney became a LifeLock member shortly after these events and was willing to tell her story).
Whitney’s experience is just one of many romance scams. Both the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have reported increased incidents of love-struck victims scammed via online dating sites.1
Thieves have been known to meet their targets on online dating sites and create an often-charming, but completely imaginary, persona. Lovelorn victims end up sending money, disclosing information and wasting time with a complete façade.
In 2011, a Philadelphia scammer charmed his way into the hearts of several naïve bank workers at many American banks. The goal? Obtain account numbers, Social Security numbers and whatever else he could get.
He selected his prey based on their close proximity to private banking information, and he manipulated his way into getting exactly the information he needed. The man ended up stealing more than $1 million out of existing bank accounts.2
Your Evil Step Sister
Even if falling in love with an identity thief seems far-fetched, ‘friendly fraud’ has become a serious problem. Friendly fraud? That’s when somebody you know personally—a friend, significant other, family member or coworker—is living a double life as an identity thief and targets you as the next victim. The scam artist may use your close relationship to takeover your credit or bank accounts
According to Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2011, 47% of account takeover fraud victims reported that they had become targets as a result of ‘friendly fraud’. The percent of account takeover frauds committed through ‘friendly fraud’ increased significantly from the 35% reported in 2010.3
Plus, victims of ‘friendly fraud’ cite a mean fraud amount of $3,544 compared to overall fraud victims’ amount of $1,513.3
Don’t Be Charmed
Instead of jumping head first into a potentially dangerous relationship, be cautious of these storybook warning signs.
Spinning Straw Into Gold: Luxury vehicles, designer clothing and extravagant vacations might be normal for a celebrity, but if your new fling drives a Mercedes but works a 40K job, you might want to start asking questions.
A Growing Nose: Not revealing the truth walks a fine line with blatant lying. An aura of secrecy might seem mysterious at first, but it could also mean your love interest is hiding something—like his real identity.
Throw Down Your Hair: He loves you, but he can’t afford to come visit you. This is a common scheme that continues to trick enchanted victims. Don’t send money to someone you don’t fully trust.
The bottom line is that an identity thief could be anyone. Privacy is always crucial— no matter how well you know the person.
Real Members sharing their stories for LifeLock. Whitney K. October 2012.
1 “Protect Your Heart From Online Dating Scams.” Better Business Bureau. February 15, 2012. http://greatermd.bbb.org/article/protect-your-heart-from-online-dating-scams-32630 Accessed October 26, 2012.
2 Blumenthal, Jeff. “Identity Theft Perpetrator Used Romance to Get Account Information.” Biz Journals. June 28, 2011. http://www.bizjournals.com/philadelphia/news/2011/06/28/identity-theft-perpetrator-used.html Accessed October 26, 2012.
3 2012 Identity Fraud Survey Report. Javelin Strategy & Research. February 2012.
Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book For
January – December 2011.” February 2012.
Javelin Strategy & Research. "2012 Identity Fraud Report: Social Media and Mobile Forming
the New Fraud Frontier." February 2012.