Online Relationship Cryptocurrency Scams

Online Relationship Scam Overview

These frequently begin with an online relationship discovered through social media or dating sites/apps. In these cases, the scammer can maintain these “relationships” for years at a time, and they will always find an excuse to avoid coming home or seeing the victim in person at any time. 

The scammer will ask to send funds to the victim for them to send back in different forms (cryptocurrency, giftcards, wires, etc) or send to another person (daisy-chaining). The victim will be told that they need to send money because the scammer cannot access the money themselves because their bank is closed/locked/inactive where they are located.

Family or Friend Impersonation

These begin when a scammer begins “spoofing” the information of a friend or family member. This is the process by which a scammer compromises the social media accounts or phone numbers of people you know and requests money while impersonating them via chat, emails, or texts.

Common Tactics of Relationship Scammers

  • Among the reasons for requiring funds are funding to repair equipment on a job site, paying for unexpected medical expenses, resolving bail/legal issues, and paying for work-related travel expenses. Scammers may request Bitcoin or cryptocurrency because they appear to be unable to access any of their own regular banking.
  • Scammers can send you money, usually in the form of a check or cash, and have you deposit it into their personal bank account. They will then request that you return the funds to them via cryptocurrency because it allows for instant transfers. 
  • This remittance return is a method used by criminals to conceal their paper trail. If this occurs, notify your bank immediately and work with their representatives.

Avoiding Relationship Scams

  • In general, travel agencies, airlines, and shipping companies do not accept Bitcoin directly for purchases or payments. Furthermore, they will never specify that any cryptocurrency be used instead of a traditional payment method such as debit or credit.
  • Anyone requesting for these or similar reasons is almost certainly deceiving you. Anyone who tells you that Bitcoin is the only way to send money to them should not be trusted. Money can be wired or transferred around the world using a variety of verified, retrievable, and secure methods, such as mobile payment services or bank wires. 
  • Bitcoin is an untraceable and irreversible currency that is not accepted by the majority of businesses or banks.

Relationship Scammer Red Flags to Look Out For

Scammers use social media platforms to create fake profiles using fake profile pictures and personas to form relationships with vulnerable victims. Once contact is made and a “relationship” is formed, the scammer will profess their love quickly to get the victim further involved and more willing to start sending funds to them.

Common Social Media sites and dating apps scammers use to contact victims

Social Media

Facebook, Instagram, Words with Friends, etc.

Dating Apps & Websites

Tinder, Bumble, etc.

Private Chat Services

Discord, WhatsApp, GroupMe, Telegram, etc.

Changing Platforms

The scammer asks to move off of the app or platform where initial contact was made.

Common Stories Used by Relationship Scammers

  1. Recipients usually claim to be overseas with no access to any standard money transfer or banking services where they are. They will claim things like their account is frozen or they are out of the country.
  2. The scammer will fabricate emergency circumstances or other pressing issues to get funds for a variety of reasons. The requests generally start out as smaller amounts for things like food or lodging, but as they get more comfortable with you, the amount being asked will increase. These asks may include:

Proceedings Assistance

The scammer is held up by customs or detained and needs money for proceedings

Travel Funds

Needing funds to purchase airfare, usually asking for much more than needed for such purposes

Medical Bills

Needing funds to pay for medical bills after getting into accidents, generally on the way to the airport or in the course of their job

Nigerian Prince Scam

Needing money to help get some sort of inheritance that is supposedly owed to the scammer after which they will give the money back

Childcare Costs

Needing funds for children they claim to have overseas. Their kids need money for educational costs to medical costs but the scammer never explains why they cannot pay for their own child’s expenses despite usually claiming to be out of the country for work

Job Assistance

Needing funds for their job, usually in infrastructure/construction/oil drilling, because the machinery or equipment related to the fabricated job is back-ordered or broken

Impersonation Relationship Scammers

A tactic used to garner empathy or a sense of importance from vulnerable groups of people. Romance/Relationship scammers are known to impersonate:

Military & Armed Forces

The scammer is requesting money because they claim the military is not providing for them (replacing equipment or gear out of pocket), they need money to get home/pay for early leave/breach of contract, or they need money to ship things home from deployment.

Close Friends or Family Impersonator

Typically done via spoofed contact information or breached social media profiles, the scammer reaches out to family members requesting money for any type of expenses. The recipient doesn’t wish to excuse themselves from phone calls or video chats.

Celebrity Impersonator

Scammers contact victims through the above-mentioned means, social media, or dating apps to receive funds for a meet-and-greet, or something in return, but the reasons for funds have varied

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