Reghan Winkler: Dating is hard. Getting scammed makes it worse.

In the digital dating era, finding love is just a few taps away. Online dating has made it easier than ever to connect with potential partners from anywhere in the world, but as the popularity of online dating increases, so does the risk of falling victim to a romance scam.

A recent report on BBB Scam Tracker highlights the story of a man from Tennessee who became a victim of a three-year-long romance scam. The man was initially contacted through a fake Instagram profile and then moved to private communication channels such as email and text messages. Over time, the scammer gained the man’s trust and obtained thousands of dollars in gift cards.

Scammers use fake identities and manipulate photos to take advantage of their victims’ emotions and control their personal information and finances. After gaining trust, they often ask for money for supposed travel expenses, medical bills, or emergencies, and these demands can persist until the victim realizes they have been scammed.

How can you protect yourself from these heartless con artists? Look out for these warning signs when online dating:

Watch out for requests for personal information or money: If someone you just met online starts asking for personal information or money, it’s a red flag. Scammers often use emergencies as an excuse to ask for money, such as travel expenses, medical bills, or other financial difficulties. These requests for payment are often done using wire transfers, gift cards, and cryptocurrency. Remember, never give out your personal information to anyone to protect your personal identity.

Be cautious of those who are always traveling or working abroad: This is a common excuse used by scammers to explain why they can’t meet in person or why they need money for emergencies.

Check for too-good-to-be-true photos: Scammers often use attractive photos of someone else to lure in their victims. Conduct a reverse image search to see if the person’s photos have been used elsewhere. Scammers can pretend to be anyone online using fake accounts and stolen photos.

Be wary of exclusive email or messaging communication: If your online match refuses to video chat or meet in person, it could be a red flag. Scammers often use this excuse to avoid revealing their true identity and to control the flow of information.

Look out for unbelievable stories: Scammers often use fabricated stories to gain their victim’s trust. If the person’s story seems too good to be true or is constantly changing, it could be a sign that they are not whom they claim to be.

By keeping these warning signs in mind, you can protect yourself from falling victim to a romance scam. If you suspect someone is a scammer, report them to the dating app or website directly. You can also use the BBB Scam Tracker to report or identify suspected scams at Stay safe and happy dating!

Reghan Winkler is executive director of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at