FTC Warns of Increase in Romance Scams, Costing Victims Millions
The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers of growing attempts by scammers to commit fraud through online romance scams. A reported $143 million was lost to romance scams in 2018 – a median loss of $2,600 per consumer – and a higher total than for any other type of scam reported to the FTC.
What does a romance scam look like? While millions of Americans use dating sites, social media, and chat rooms to forge successful relationships, scammers also use these sites to seek potential victims. They create fake profiles or even steal the identity of a real person. Once building a relationship and gaining trust, they ask for money.
Usually, the money is requested by wire transfer or gift card. They might claim it is needed for a medical emergency or to come visit. Then they take the money, but there’s no surgery and no trip. Some even make wedding plans before disappearing with the payment.
How can you (or a loved one) avoid romance scams?
- Never send money or gifts to someone you haven’t met in person.
- 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.
- Contact your financial institution immediately if payment was issued.
- Report to the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint
- Notify the dating site where you met the scammer.
This infographic from the American Bankers Association sums up the signs and impact of online dating scams.