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Scammers Use Dating Apps to Launder CARES Money

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The CARES Act, which was passed into law in late March, has been providing financial relief to consumers and businesses across the country. With money being moved into the economy, scammers are looking to profit at the expense of the everyday consumer.

BBB has received reports of consumers being targeted over dating apps and roped into laundering the funds received from the CARES Act. It starts out as a typical romance scam: You find a great match, and after some chatting, they suggest you move the conversation off the app. Before long, your match begins asking for favors, such as receiving money for them and wiring it to another account.

The scammer will always have a reason for asking you to help them this way. They may claim the money is going to help a sick relative, business reasons or to support a charity. In reality, that money was stolen from individuals receiving their CARES funding. The stolen money gets funneled through scam victims in the United States to accounts overseas, making the victim a “money mule”, an accessory to money laundering. Although they are a victim, they could still face prosecution.

If you use dating apps, use these tips to avoid becoming a money mule:

  • Do your research. Since most romance scammers use stolen photos, use reverse image searching to see if pictures used on a profile are used anywhere else. You can also search names, email addresses, and phone numbers to see if their information adds up. Remember, scammers often pose as men and target women in their 50s and 60s.
  • Ask specific questions. A scammer may stumble trying to remember details provided on their profile. Ask specific questions about what you see on their profile and monitor their responses.
  • Be suspicious. If someone begins asking for money, or your personal information, cut off contact. This is especially important if they request money to be sent over wire transfer or prepaid debit cards. Even if they seem to have a good reason for asking, you should never send money to someone you’ve never met in person.

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