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BBB: This romance scam tricks victims into laundering money

Are you on a dating app? The Better Business Bureau encourages users to research, ask specific questions and never send money to avoid scams.
Be careful for online romance scams, especially around Valentine's Day, the Better Business Bureau urges.

With Valentine's Day looming, romance is in the air.

If you seek love via a dating app, watch for scammers who only love your money.

Scammers are using people to funnel stolen money out of the country. This con may look like a classic romance scam, but victims are tricked into illegal activity and can be prosecuted.

How the scam works

You join a dating app and start messaging someone who looks amazing. They are the complete package: good-looking, successful, kind… and, most importantly, really into you, too!

After chatting for a little while, your new love interest suggests that you chat by text or email rather than through the app. If you do that, you may notice that they also delete their dating profile.

Everything seems great, but soon, your new beau has some unusual — but seemingly harmless — requests. They want you to receive money for them and wire it overseas.

They may claim to be helping a loved one battling an illness, doing a business deal, or representing a charitable organization. If you refuse, your amorous new beau may become hostile, threaten you, or become distant.

It turns out that the money they want you to receive is stolen.

After stealing it, scammers send the money through someone in the United States or Canada, making it harder for authorities to trace. Money laundering and wire fraud are illegal! Although the “money mule” is a victim, they may also face prosecution.

In a recent example, a victim reported the following to BBB Scam Tracker:

"I was involved with internet romance by Andrew Charles Carlos, apparently sent me a package as a gift from Syria. When the package arrived, cnd global logistics asked for $2,250 fee before releasing the parcel due to its content containing $10,000 cash. $2,250 was paid and the parcel was transferred to Seattle Washington and i was told another fee for $4,500 before releasing the parcel. $4,500 was paid and i was told the parcel will be arriving on Jan. 24, on that day i received an email stating that my parcel was on hold by the customs / federal Bureau of Investigation at Indiana, with the notice that i have to pay the sum of $6,500 USD for the delivery process to continue. also stated in the email, "we were talking with the customs; they said the last victim of this case was charged the sum of $20,850 USD., but due to our explanation we made to them, telling then this is a military package and probably you might not aware that such amount of money is in the box, that they should just help us and reduce the price of the tax. We came to the conclusion that you have to pay $6,500 USD."

Protect yourself from this scam

Do your research

  • Many scammers steal photos from the internet to use in their dating profiles. You can do a reverse image lookup using a website like Google Images to see if the photos on a profile have been stolen from somewhere else. You can also search online for a profile name, email, or phone number to see what adds up and what doesn’t. Scammers often pose as men and target women in their 50s and 60s.

Ask specific questions about details given in a profile

  • A scammer may stumble over remembering details or making a story fit.

Never send money or sensitive personal information to someone you’ve never met in person

  • Cut off contact if someone starts asking you for financial or personally identifiable information (PII), like your credit card number or government ID number.

Be very suspicious of requests to wire money or use a pre-paid debit card

  • These are scammers’ favourite ways to send payments because, like cash, it can't be recovered once the money is gone.