The CARES law, which was enacted in late March, has provided financial assistance to consumers and businesses across the country. With the money pumped into the economy, crooks seek to profit from it at the expense of the ordinary consumer.
BBB has received reports of consumers being targeted on dating apps and forced to launder funds received from the CARES Act. It starts off as a typical romantic scam: you find a good match and after some chat they suggest you move the conversation out of the app. Before long, your partner starts asking for favors, like receiving money for them and transferring it to another account.
The scammer will always have a reason to ask you to help him this way. They may claim that the money is going to help a sick relative, for business reasons or to support a charity. In effect, this money was stolen from people receiving their CARES funding. The stolen money is funneled by victims of fraud in the United States to accounts abroad, making the victim a “money mule”, an accessory to money laundering. Although they are victims, they could still be prosecuted.
If you use dating apps, follow these tips to avoid becoming a money mule:
- Do your research. Since most scammers use stolen photos, use reverse image search to see if the images used on a profile are being used elsewhere. You can also search for names, email addresses, and phone numbers to see if their information adds up. Keep in mind that scammers often pose as men and target women in their 50s and 60s.
- Ask specific questions. A scammer may stumble when trying to remember the details provided on their profile. Ask specific questions about what you see on their profile and watch their responses.
- Be wary. If someone starts asking for money or your personal information, turn off the ignition. This is especially important if they request that money be sent by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. Even if they seem to have a good reason to ask, you should never send money to someone you’ve never met in person.
To learn more about CARES and romance scams, visit us at BBB.org.