Sugar Daddy and Sugar Momma Scams: Beware of This Growing Scam

Sugar Daddy and Sugar Momma Scams: Beware of This Growing Scam
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Sugar Daddy and Sugar Momma Scams: Beware of This Growing Scam

Sakshi Udavant
October 6, 2022

If you’re feeling lonely or need some quick cash, it can be tempting to take up the sugar daddy (or sugar momma) offer in your DMs. But these aren’t always safe. There’s a high chance it’s a sugar daddy scam. According to the FBI, victims lost more than $950 million in 2021 to romance scams like these.

There are various ways to watch out for such sugar baby scams. In this article, we’ll break down what sugar daddy scams are, how they work and how you can better protect yourself from fraudsters.

What is a sugar daddy or sugar momma scam?

Fraudsters will often pose as rich men and women, tempting young students and early-career employees with the promise of money to fund their education or dream lifestyles in exchange for a relationship or sexual favors.

While safe sugar daddy or momma relationships do exist, scams leverage the unique dynamic of these relationships to extract money from unsuspecting victims, said Joshua Pardhe, a financial cybersecurity researcher at Arizona State University.

A standard sugar daddy-sugar baby relationship involves two consenting parties who agree to establish a relationship in exchange money or favors. But if someone claims that they want to sponsor you but disappear after you offer money and/or favors, that’s a scam.

Related: Romance Scams: Dating Sites, Escort Services Are Top Targets for Fraudsters

How does a sugar daddy scam work?

Sugar daddy scams can work in various ways. Here are some to watch out for.

The processing fee scam

The sugar daddy or sugar momma will promise to send a check or make a digital payment to the sugar baby. But the first victim has to send some money to “clear” or “process” the payment.

”These often include very real-looking emails from real companies like PayPal, CashApp or Zelle telling the victim that there is money that will be released once a fee is paid or once the account is upgraded,” said Peter Robert, the founder of Expert Computer Solutions, a service that helps companies create cyber security policies. “Once the victim sends the money, the ’daddy’ disappears with the money and is never to be seen again.”

The fake check scam

Sometimes the fake sugar daddy will do everything it takes to make the agreement look real.

“The targeted victim will be promised a large deposit and will often be shown some sort of ’evidence’ of the pending deposit,” said Kristofor R. Healey, founder of Black Bear Security Consultants. This can be in the form of a check or a pending digital payment.

The sugar daddy or sugar momma sends you a check, but then they ask for some of the money back. It could be to cover some costs or because they need some cash urgently. Because it’s money from their check, the victim is likely to pay back the amount from their own account.

“The problem is that the check they sent you is fake,” Robert said. “People are under the impression that, once the money is in your account, the check has cleared and everything is OK. The truth is your financial institution is fronting you the money because they assume the check is good.”

Weeks or even months may pass before your bank realizes the transaction is no good. “At this point, you’re on the hook for the money because you’ve likely spent it or sent it back to the daddy,” Robert said.

The relationship scam

Not all scams come from banking loopholes.

“Scammers rely on psychology far more than technology and their goal is to get you to know, like and trust them so that they can take advantage of you,” Healey said. “The successful scammer is someone who can leverage psychology to get the victim to believe they are legitimate.”

Fake sugar mommies and daddies try to build a relationship with you to exploit you in the future. This is fairly easy to do in today’s social media age. Fraudsters find identifying information on the victim’s social media accounts that they can use to create rapport.

“They do this by leveraging your personal information and offering solutions to your problems,” Healey said.

For example, if you frequently post about your education goals or hint at debt problems, they can reach out with an offer to sponsor your tuition fees or help you repay your loans.

This can also happen through dating sites.

“Sugar daddies or mommas message men or women through dating sites and form a relationship online and then ask for money via bank transfer or untraceable gift cards,” said Joseph Puglisi, the CEO of the dating review platform Dating Iconic. “The victims send the money and get ghosted.”

How to best protect against a sugar daddy or sugar momma scam

Sugar daddy and sugar momma scams can be dangerous, but there are various ways to try and identify them before you lose your money. Here are some ways to better protect yourself online.

Don’t reply

“The best protection is to not respond to scammy-looking messages and emails,” Pardhe said.

Here are some potential red flags to watch out for:

  • Promising large sums of money
  • Poor English and grammar
  • The social media profile just recently started or has been unused for large periods of time.

“The moment you respond or ’like’ a message, it indicates that you are a prime target for such scams,” Pardhe said, “and you might get bombarded by other scammers.”

Instead, reporting and blocking the scam account could be the best option. The Federal Trade Commission also provides a way to report scams at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Don’t overshare on public social media accounts

“Don’t put things on social media that can be easily exploited by scammers, such as personally identifiable information or information related to your financial situation,” Healey said. “The less information you put out in public, the less they have to exploit.”

This doesn’t mean you can’t post anything on social media. Rather, it’s a reminder to be mindful about how much you’re sharing and which users can see that information. If you upload a lot of personal information online, consider making your account private and only adding your family and friends.

Scammers excel at sending real-looking emails with harmful links that will destroy your account or system the moment you click them.

“Not just attachments but even the hyperlinks in the body of the email can be dangerous,” Robert said. “Links could fire up javascript that will download malware on your machine.”

It’s also important to look at the sender’s email address.

“Remember that the username can be created by anyone,” Robert said. “If an email address is something like ‘paypal_customerservice @gmail.com,’ it’s not really from PayPal.”

Never send money to strangers online

“Never, ever send money via Zelle or gift cards to an individual you do not personally know,” Healey said. “If someone you don’t know is messaging you and asking for payment, you are almost certainly dealing with a scammer.”

Even if the person seems legit, it’s always a good idea to pause and consult with family or friends before making any transactions.

Disclaimer: The above is solely intended for informational purposes and in no way constitutes legal advice or specific recommendations.