How to spot a romance scam — and what to do next

In recent years, romance scams were one of the most profitable types of fraud on social media — second only to investment scams. With losses hitting record highs over the last few years, it’s important to be aware of how romance scams happen and what to do if you or someone you know become the target of one.

What is a romance scam? 

Romance scams can affect a range of people. Criminals typically target emotionally vulnerable individuals, like someone who lost a partner or is isolated because of the pandemic or other reasons. 

The scams usually take place via social media or online dating sites, and the scammer is rarely available to meet in person. The scammer develops a close relationship with their target over time to gain trust and then fabricates a story to ask for money. Common lies include needing help for: 

  • Emergency medical expenses 
  • Legal fees 
  • Assets held in customs 
  • Travel expenses 
  • Car-repair expenses

The money request is often for an international wire transfer or a reload of gift cards from well-known retailers. This enables the scammer to obtain cash quickly and anonymously. The transactions are then difficult (if not impossible) to track and reverse.  

How to spot the scam 

The criminal’s actions may seem sincere or legitimate, but caution is urged when someone: 

  • Claims to quickly have fallen in love and asks for money. 
  • Urges conversations via text or email, rather than face to face or in person.  
  • Removes their online profile and requests to keep the relationship secret. 
  • Requests payment for travel, either for a visit or to come home from a remote job location.  

What to do

As a preventative measure, sensitive financial information — such as account information or a Social Security number — should never be shared. Similarly, personal details such as full name, date of birth and addresses should not be published online.

If you are concerned a friend or family member is the target of a romance scam, trust your instincts. Encourage the person to:  

  • Stop all contact immediately.
  • Decline any request to send money or allow a transfer into an account.
  • Contact the bank if money was sent or account information was shared.
  • Contact their financial advisor for help to assess the validity of a money request.
  • Report the situation to the Federal Trade CommissionFederal Bureau of Investigation and the online dating site.

We are here to help 

Protecting clients’ privacy, security and financial assets is a priority. We are committed to: 

  • Assess every international wire request from an Ameriprise account for signs of fraud.   
  • Work with financial advisors and powers of attorney to assist individuals and their family members. 
  • Provide information from the Ameriprise Anti-Fraud Department regarding the scam.
  • Work with the FBI and/or contact local law-enforcement authorities when appropriate.

If you or someone you know may be the target of a romance scam, talk to your Ameriprise financial advisor and share this information with others. Additionally, visit the Privacy, Security & Fraud Center on to learn more about fraud prevention and protections that are available.