The latest twist on an online romance scam could leave hopeful singles broken-hearted and penniless, a watchdog group warns.
In fact, a “sugar momma” scam cost one man nearly $20,000, according to the Better Business Bureau.
According to the BBB, the romantic pitch typically begins with a message from someone on a dating or social media app offering to be your “sugar momma or daddy” — a person who provides financial assistance often in exchange for companionship or acts of affection.
The fraudsters often promise a “weekly allowance” to help with bills and other expenses. The funds arrive in the form of a check or what appears to be a legitimate money transfer to your bank account, the BBB says. The “sugar momma” promises to let you keep most of the cash, but only if you agree to send a portion of it to help “their needy friend, pay an outstanding bill, or even make a donation to charity.”
In the case of a South Carolina man, a fraudster he met on Instagram asked him to send cash to various contacts via Zelle and PayPal on their behalf.
“[I] believed that these checks were legit and the funds were real,” the victim wrote on BBB’s Scam Tracker. “We exchanged information, pictures, etc and started communicating via text. I ended up gaining her trust and allowed her mobile access to my bank. I agreed to then allow her to mobile deposit checks into my savings account.”
The man said he soon ended up with a negative $7,000 balance in his savings account thanks to the fraudulent checks and money transfers.
“I ended up just sending my own personal money to these contacts and not from the ‘checks,’ which ended up costing me $19,500,” he said, according to BBB’s ScamTracker. “Of course [I] was stupid and believed that this person could help me out even more financially because I was blinded by money.”
To avoid falling victim to dating scams, the watchdog group recommends doing your homework on any potential matches and quizzing them on details featured on their dating or social media profiles.
Most importantly, never share money or financial information with people you don’t know personally, the BBB says.