romance scam

By: Eva Velasquez, President & CEO of Identity Theft Resource Center

If you have a LinkedIn account, keep an eye on your email for a LinkedIn romance scam.  There are immediate red flags in this communication, and I’m a happily married woman, but I did find part of this invitation appealing: I saw the immediate opportunity to educate people regarding romance scams!  Here is  a recent email that came to my work inbox. It said:

How are you,

I read your profile on LinkedIn and you caught my eye, I am interested in communicating more and sharing more about me with you and hope to learn more about you too that is if you are single and interested in communicating further. This is all new for me, it is the first time I would ever go against protocol of doing business only on the LinkedIn website. I do believe everything is possible if we put our mind and heart together just like I believe that good things can be found in the least places and when we least expect. I do not just give out my personal details like email or phone numbers to people on LinkedIn or off it, but I am willing to make a compromise to communicate with you so here am I emailing you off the site because I really wanted to touch base with you.

I am interested in communicating more this is me being honest. I hope no offense is taken, I understand the medium is a business networking medium and not a dating or social networking website and I don’t intend to use it for one. I will wait for your response soon hopefully, meanwhile, my profile on LinkedIn is on my name AUSTIN WAGNER. You should check me out and let me know what you think. I have no picture on my profile so I am sending you a couple of recent pictures too just so you know what I look like.

Warm Regards,
Austin Wagner

“Austin Wagner” went on to send me these pictures:

I first thought, wow this is one heck of scam but they definitely tried to phish the wrong gal. Oddly enough, I thought I  recognized the man in these images. Most times, scammers will steal pictures from public social media account to use for their own gain including dating apps, social media, etc. Sometimes these pictures will even be of a military member in uniform. I mean, who wouldn’t trust the red, white and blue?

Being the CEO of a non-profit that specializes in identity theft remediation, I put on my investigative hat and got to work. After a reverse image Google search, it turns out the pictures are of Joe Cross, the health advocate from the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. I knew I recognized him! I had seen the film and even adventured on my own green juice journey (amazing benefits but that’s besides the point). Moreover, the pictures were from his Facebook and Twitter in 2016. This scammer chose the wrong person to come after!

I did not have a new love interest, and that is okay because, once again, I am a happily married woman! This LinkedIn romance scam is a reminder of how careful we all have to be of romance scams.

They can do more damage than nearly any other scam. Not only can they take your money, but they can meddle with your emotions as well.

To avoid falling victim to a LinkedIn romance scam, keep these things in mind:

Make Sure You Know the Person

If you receive a message like the one I received, it is fake. These scammers browse sites like LinkedIn looking for victims to take advantage of. As nice as it is to receive a compliment on your looks, don’t fall for ones like these and make sure you have alternate means of contacting the person outside of LinkedIn. I have received several instant messages from connections whose accounts were hacked. In fact, I received one from the CEO of Seamgen with whom I have a working relationship with. However, the ask looked odd, and requested that I click on a link to fill out a form. I emailed my contact and they confirmed that their account had been hacked and were in the process of restoring it.

Money? You Want My Money?

Everyone needs a little financial help, right? The first request for money will come along and it will seem like a legitimate request. Next thing you know, you have bought your “significant other” a plane ticket or medication for one of their sick relatives. If you get requests like this, it is a scam like the LinkedIn romance scam and the criminal is just looking to steal your money.

Mentioning money, some romance scams can force the victim into money laundering, which happens when your “significant other” wires your money with instructions to send it to someone else.

Others Types of Romance Scams

Not all romance scams are like the LinkedIn romance scam. Some can happen at your door, an online romance scam that crosses over into real life, as well as on dating apps.

The best way to protect yourself from scammers like these is to be smart and cautious, even more so than you would in a face-to-face relationship. Also, if you are EVER asked to send money, don’t do it. It is important to protect yourself from manipulative tactics. Protect yourselves from the “Austin Wagner’s” of LinkedIn, no matter how flattering they are.

Contact the Identity Theft Resource Center for toll-free, no-cost assistance at (888) 400-5530. For on-the-go assistance, check out the free ID Theft Help App from ITRC.

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