The romantic lyrics of the Alicia Keys song ‘Tender Love’ may draw lonely hearts to the dating app Tinder or similar online sites this Valentine’s Month. Unfortunately Keys’ song ‘Try sleeping with a broken heart’ could be more appropriate for those who end up parting with money in the name of love.

Online financial scams are on the rise and tricksters are becoming more sophisticated and innovative, according to John Manyike, Head of Financial Education at Old Mutual.

“During this month of love remember to protect not only your heart, but your pocket as well. More and more innocent people are being scammed by clever con artists who prey on unsuspecting people. Be very aware of the potential risks of letting your guard down and sending your money to someone you have not yet met, despite feeling close to them online,” he says.

“Unfortunately criminals use these online dating sites too and we want to warn individuals to remain vigilant when the topic of money comes up with a potential companion or a seeming soulmate. The ugly truth is that some people are looking to make fast money off lonely and vulnerable people through a variety of scams.”

History and research has shown that such fraudsters usually troll social media sites and chat rooms in search of their victims. In March 2016, a sophisticated internet fraud syndicate was exposed which ran a romance scam that stole over R70 million from vulnerable women who are over 40, divorced, widowed or disabled. But Manyike warns that both men and women in every age category and demographic group are at risk.

He offers the following tips on how to avoid being an online victim of crooked love:

  1. Remember how hard you have worked and continue to work for your money. Ask yourself what you would do if you lost all your savings? Imagine being in that terrifying situation and then promise yourself you won’t be generous with online partners, no matter how compelling or logical their plea is for funds to visit you, or pay a medical bill, or book a holiday for the two of you. 
  2. Always share what is happening with someone you trust. Chances are this person will be more objective and able to pick up danger signs and bring them to your attention. Do not ignore them. 
  3. Make sure your vision of your goals is strong and clear, so that it can withstand any temptation that might come your way. Being emotionally attached to your goals will help you be disciplined and committed.  Another option is to put your money in formal savings instruments that will make it harder for you to make a transfer or withdrawal on impulse. 
  4. Don’t share financial details with your online partner. Avoid becoming a target to a potential scammer by keeping your money matters private. 

Manyike stresses that it is important to be cautious, aware and wide-awake online. “It reduces the risk of falling for scams and keeps your money safe from the hands of the fraudsters,” he says. “And always keep your goals top of mind.” 


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