It’s almost Valentine’s Day and love is in the air. You may think you spend a lot on flowers or chocolate but losing money in a romance scam would cost you much more. According to a new report by the Federal Trade Commission, there were nearly 70,000 reports of romance scams last year, and people lost an estimated $1.3 billion.
What is a romance scam?
We’re not talking about someone you thought was “the one” but ended up being a dud. We mean a person you meet online, who lavishes you with attention… and then asks for money. They might claim they need it for a medical emergency or to come visit you. Usually, they want the money by wire transfer, gift card or cryptocurrency. Then they disappear and so does your money.
How does a romance scam work?
Romance scammers woo people on online dating apps and social media. They commonly target older adults. They often steal photos to create an attractive profile or even take the identity of a real person. They will say the things you want to hear and like with a real romance, it may take them some time to gain your trust and develop a “relationship.” A scammer’s patience can pay off big. Last year, in a typical romance scam, the victim lost a reported $4,400.
How can you avoid romance scams?
- Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person, especially through wire transfers, gift cards, or cryptocurrency, which have fewer consumer protections.
- Take it slowly. Ask questions and look for inconsistent answers. Check the person’s photo using your search engine’s “search by image” feature. If the same picture shows up with a different name, that’s a red flag.
- Talk to someone about this new love interest. And pay attention if your friends or family are concerned.
- If you suspect a romance scam, cut off contact right away. Then, report to the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint. Notify the dating site where you met the scammer, too.