A ‘sugar daddy’ scam circulating in US cost one woman RM92,000. What to watch out for


According to the Better Business Bureau, there have been numerous reports of scammers offering to be a ‘sugar momma’ or ‘sugar daddy’ – an offer that comes with a promised weekly allowance for affection in return. But it’s actually an attempt to steal money. — Photo by Yura Fresh on Unsplash

You can’t always trust who you meet online – something especially important to remember in light of a new romance scam circulating on social media and dating apps.

According to the Better Business Bureau, there have been numerous reports of scammers offering to be a “sugar momma” or “sugar daddy” – an offer that comes with a promised weekly allowance for affection in return.

But it’s actually an attempt to steal money.

How the ‘sugar daddy’ romance scam works

According to the Better Business Bureau, the scammer sends the target a cheque or pretends to transfer money into their bank account, or into a peer-to-peer payment service like Venmo, Cash App, PayPal or Apple Pay.

They tell the target to keep most of the money as their “weekly allowance” (after doing them a small favour) but then they ask the target to transfer part of that money out in another way, such as paying an outstanding bill, buying a gift card, sending money to a needy friend or even donating to a fake charity.

A lot of these scammers have promised hundreds and even thousands of dollars, which is how much some victims have been tricked into losing, the BBB says.

“I believed that these checks were legit and the funds were real,” one victim reported to the BBB. “I ended up just sending my own personal money to these contacts...Which ended up costing me US$19,500 (RM92,205).”

The scam is happening nationwide and on all platforms

It’s not just happening in the Carolinas, but across the US.

“This is just the newest iteration of how romance scams work. They’ve been around for a while... Scammers are always trying to find new ways of doing it,” Tom Bartholomy, President and CEO of Better Business Bureau, told The Charlotte Observer.

“This type of scam is a long play. It’s nothing that’s going to be a one call and you’re done.”

It’s a scam that Bartholomy says to watch out for on all platforms.

“Nobody is immune. Facebook, TikTok, Insta, but then the dating sites, every one of them has warnings on their sites about these types of scams,” he said. “The scammers know what they’re doing. They see what the most popular social media channels are now, and so that’s where they’re going to focus their interest.”

Red flags: How to spot a romance scam

Here are some tips from the BBB to avoid this scam:

  • Research someone’s profile name, email or phone number to make sure a scammer is not posing as someone else with stolen photos.

  • Do not send money or private information if you’ve never met in person.

  • Be careful with cheques, especially if a cheque hasn’t been cleared by a bank, before spending any funds sent over.

“Whenever there’s a promise of money coming to you, but there has to be access given to the other party or some money up front given to the other party, that’s their play,” Bartholomy explained.

“That not only are you getting a friendship or romantic interest out of this, but you’re also going to get some money out of this. They’re pushing every button they can whether it be romance, whether it be greed, whatever it might be.” – The Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service

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