By Patricia Anne Ocampo
PHOTO: US Federal Bureau of Investigation

Love permeates the air as February casually rolls in, so it is only natural to look for a special someone to spend Valentine’s day with. Unfortunately, however, the sweet flavor of romance sometimes comes with a bitter aftertaste as romance scams become rampant.

Romance scams refer to the criminal act of creating a fake online identity to lure someone into trusting them and falling in love with them, and using this established delusion of affection as a mask to disguise malicious intentions such as manipulation and/or theft. With charm and charisma as their trump card, scammers paint themselves as the ideal partner to make their victim drop their guards around them.

Oftentimes, these criminals avoid meeting the victim in person as much as possible, creating plans to see each other but never actually showing up. With a string of excuses, such as working overseas, they deceive their victim into lending them money for supposed emergencies.

As more people engage in online dating, the number of cases like this has significantly heightened. However, despite how terrifying romance scams may be, there are ways to avoid falling for them. Here are some tips for evading romance scams from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):

1. Be cautious of what you post online.
The information that you post online can be utilized against you as it gives ill-intentioned individuals an edge to understand you better.

2. Check if the details they provided you are theirs.
Look up their name, photo, and other details through online search engines and see if it has been used elsewhere.

3. Take it slow.
To ensure that their intentions are genuinely pure, take your time in getting to know each other and ask a multitude of questions. Be on alert if they seem too ideal, or if they seem too eager to take it to the next level.

4. If they try to separate you from friends or ask for sensitive photos or information, be wary.
Inappropriate images and personal information could be used to coerce and blackmail you to comply with their demands in the future.

5. Watch out if they always come up with reasons to not meet up in person.
It is suspicious of them to still refuse to meet up in person despite talking or being in a relationship for months. It is likely that they will ask you for money eventually. Do not indulge them, especially not if you have not seen them in person yet.

Cupid’s bow is unparalleled in terms of power. It is a tool that can be used to execute both pure and ill intentions, depending on who wields it. Look out for its arrow, or else you might fall into a trap rather than in love.