Romance scams are being used at an alarming rate to dupe banks, financial institutions, and customers out of money. According to the Federal Trade Commission, nearly 70,000 American consumers reported a romance scam in 2022, with losses totaling $1.3 Billion and averaging $4,400 per victim.
A romance scam is a fraud tactic where a scammer plays on a victim’s emotions to steal their money. It starts with a feign: a stranger friends you on a social media platform or dating app; progresses with gain: they woo you with flattery to earn your affection; and ends with bank drain: the person claims an emergency, asks for money, and promises to pay it back. You consent, send the money, and they disappear.
How do romance scams work?
Romance scammers are masters of deception, and the lies they tell are extensive. Popular sob stories and sweet talk includes:
- I’m sick, hurt, or in jail (or someone close to me is)
- I can teach you how to invest
- I’m in the military far away
- I need help with an important delivery
- We’ve never met, but let’s talk about marriage
While the lies might vary from one con artist to another, the lifecycle of a romance scam remains consistent.
- The fraudster creates fake online dating or social media accounts. They choose attractive, attention-grabbing profile photos and keep personal details minimal.
- The scammer contacts potential victims with the intention of starting a fake relationship.
- Once a victim responds, they use a range of malicious tactics to forge a strong bond. From lavish compliments to romantic discussions, they make the victim feel special and claim to be in love.
- After the relationship is well established, the fraudster asks the victim for a minor The request is small, and it’s likely related to a financial hardship. Because they want the money quickly, the fraudster tells the victim how to pay (cryptocurrency, bank wire transfer, gift card, payment apps or services).
- The victim sets up the fraudster as a new payee and makes several small payments over time.
- Once the scammer receives the money, they ramp up their claims — a major medical or family emergency has occurred! — and they convince the victim to make a much larger payment.
How banks can protect customers from romance scams
It’s difficult for banks and financial organizations to catch romance scammers in their tracks. While banks have traditionally relied on awareness and education programs to protect customers from such threats, these strategies aren’t always effective. Fraud tactics are evolving, and scammers are leveraging new tools like Generative AI to create simulated profiles. Not only does this make it faster and easier to build fake personas, they’re also more convincing. Meanwhile, customers are spending more time online, and transferring money from one account to another has never been easier. It’s a perfect storm for romance scammers.
What does it take for a bank to protect customers from romance scams? A comprehensive data capture solution that gathers and analyzes customer data to intercept — and prevent — fraud in real time.
Fighting fraud effectively requires a first-party data capture solution that collects ALL customer interactions across an organization’s website or app in real time. From IP addresses and browsing history to devices used and time spent per page, the more information that’s collected, the more complete customer profiles will be.
Behavioral biometrics provide further insight into customer behaviors and patterns. By understanding how an individual customer types, swipes, and uses their mouse over time, banks can quickly spot and flag current behavior that doesn’t match.
Behavioral biometrics is especially helpful for detecting romance scams. Being a form of authorized push payment (APP) fraud, romance scams involve victims who willingly transfer money to fraudsters. But even willing actions can be plagued by subtle, unrealized behaviors. For example, a person who is under stress — like a victim being pressured into sending money — behaves differently than when they’re not under stress. They might hesitate, wondering if the requestor will pay them back, or they might feel rushed and stumble while entering their account password. Behavioral biometrics capture even the smallest anomalies and inconsistencies in a customer’s actions to detect and reveal actions that don’t meet the norm.
To fight fraud, the most effective data capture solution unites first-party data and real-time identity resolution that includes behavioral biometrics. A first-party identity (ID) graph links customer identities across all devices, channels, domains, and over time to build complete 360-degree customer profiles. Behavioral biometrics work alongside the ID graph to compare “me vs. me” behavior and identify suspicious activities instantly.
An effective solution uses advanced anomaly detection that leverages machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) to sift through vast amounts of data from all sources. Running behind the scenes of an organization, ML detects behaviors commonly exhibited by scammed customers based on thousands of interactions tracked over time. For instance, with romance scams, fraudsters often escalate their requests for money. Advanced ML techniques effectively detect and identify these patterns as they appear so organizations can intercept accordingly.
Finally, to stop romance scammers before they steal money, your data capture solution must be able to intervene and act in real time. Capturing, stitching, and relaying all data instantly enables banks to intercept the moment fraud is detected — BEFORE it’s completed. Customizable rules and trigger-based alarms can be programmed to alert fraud systems and teams and protect customers. Real-time decisioning and activation can determine the best interception method — whether that’s sending personalized messages (Do you know and trust this person? If not, contact us immediately!) before a money transfer happens, or blocking the transaction entirely.
Follow the clues to reveal the romancer
Romance scammers are harmful to banks and financial institutions, as well as their customers. While these fraudsters and scam artists are sneaky, romance scams can still be detected and prevented in real time by leveraging a modern, data-driven fraud solution.
To follow the trail and reveal the scammer, look for a comprehensive data capture platform that collects and analyzes ALL customer data to intercept romance scams in real time.