A romance scam, dating scam, or catfishing is a swindle where someone tries to lure another into giving them money through a dating site, email romance, or other dating-related contact. This article focuses on the folks who have already fallen prey to a dating scam, and what they can do about it.
End All Contact with the Email Scam Artist
The first step is to stop communicating with the person trying to romance scam you. Don't answer their phone calls, block all of their emails (or send them to a folder reserved for future litigation purposes), and don't reply to their instant messages whether in a chat program, on your cell phone, or at a dating site.
Start Your Scam Reporting with a Folder or Binder
Make hard copies of everything the dating scammer gave or sent to you and keep them in a file or binder for safekeeping. That means printing out all emails, filing every letter received, keeping any related credit cards, wires, money orders, and/or bank receipts, printing off phone bills, writing out text messages or getting a list from your cell phone provider, filing any related canceled checks, and documenting chats received via instant message.
Check with Western Union to See If the Payment Can Be Canceled
Most dating scams are perpetrated through Western Union. If this is how you sent the funds, check with the company to see if they can be canceled before being picked up.
Start Official Scam Reporting
When the dating scam occurs through a dating site, make sure to report it through their website. Victims should also check out the FBI's website dedicated to online fraud called Looks Too Good To Be True, which offers scam reporting for citizens of any country, regardless of their location. You may also want to contact the local authorities, although they may not be able to help with much else than the documentation needed in the next step of this process.
Collect Information on the Dating Scam Artist
Try to gather as much information as you can about the person who scammed you, such as their name, email address, any IDs used, the site they contacted you at, the kind of scam, what address they gave you to send money, the dates contact was made, any phone numbers used, the name and address the money was sent to, how much money was sent, any Western Union or banking information receipts, and their IP address.
Guard Against Identity Theft
Unfortunately, by falling prey to a romance scam, you've also opened yourself up to identity theft—take the appropriate precautions with that in mind.
Refuse Contact with Other Dating Scam Artists
Because you've already been a victim of a romance scam, you'll be put on a contact list for other fraudulent folks to contact you. Be aware of this by not accepting chats or email contact with random strangers, and block contact with anyone on dating sites that doesn't fall within a certain geographic range. Make sure that, when one of these romance scammers contacts you, you let them know you're aware they aren't on the up and up and then block them. Eventually, you'll be moved to a no contact list, but stay vigilant nonetheless.