People all over the world celebrated Valentine’s Day last week, but scammers are using this time of year to take advantage of the love in the air by targeting us with online romance scams.
The frequency of romance scams has been increasing rapidly in recent years. The FTC has reported that in the past 5 years $1.3 billion was lost to romance scams with $547 million of which was lost just in 2021. This 2021 amount was the record breaking dollar amount to date.
The hardship felt by these scams is not only financial, FBI Supervisory Special Agent Keith Custer "Victims at the end of a romance scam can feel manipulated. Families, marriages, relationships can be torn apart, and the toll of one of these scams can be devastating," Custer said.
Netflix’s new documentary, the “tinder swindler” confirms this reality. This documentary showcases an example of how these scams are conducted. The swindlers target you on online dating apps and use a variety of deceptive tactics to earn your heart, and then go after your personal information and money.
We wanted to let you know about the new tricks that scammers frequently use and tell-tale signs you should be suspicious of.
Signs of Romance Scams:
The scammer might make a fake online profile or assume someone else's identity on a dating site.
Scammers also reach out to victims through unsolicited messages on social media, such as Facebook and Instagram.
Many scammers will find an excuse not to meet in person, such as claiming to live or work abroad.
According to the FTC, scammers will come up with compelling lies to convince a victim to transfer funds, such as claiming they need money for a health crisis or that they can't access their own money for some reason.
They might ask for money through wire transfers or gift cards as these payment methods cannot be tracked.
Scammers may also try to get a victim involved in fake investments involving cryptocurrency or foreign exchange trading, the FTC warned. In 2021, $139 million worth of losses were paid through cryptocurrency.
Every age has been targeted by romance scams, but people 70 and older have lost the most money, with the average median loss coming to $9,000.
Top 3 tips to avoid romance scams:
The FTC advises people to protect themselves by
Don’t send money to strangers through wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency (these are the non-traceable methods that scammers use most)
Never sending money to or accepting investment advice from someone they never met.
Use Google to reverse image search the dating profile image (saving the photo to your device and pasting in Google search), to see if they are generic ones pulled from the internet.