While millions of people use online dating apps or social media platforms to meet that special someone, romance scammers create fake profiles to prey on the vulnerable. By building relationships over time, talking daily, or even several times a day, they'll use true love as a means to deceive people into sending them money.
People reported a record $547million in losses to romance scams in 2021. That's up 80% from 2020 according to the Federal Trade Commission. Both cryptocurrency and gift card scams were on the rise.
What to Look For
Scammers will adjust their story to whatever means necessary to make sure their story is believable.
They will not meet you in person because it’s a “long distance romance” – they travel extensively for work, they are in the military or work internationally.
Eventually, after they gain your trust, they will start asking for money. Whether it’s help paying for medical expenses, for travel expenses to finally meet or investment opportunities like cryptocurrency, scammers ensure their story sounds legitimate.
Scammers want immediate payment via ways that are hard to trace or recoup like money wire, gift cards, crypto, or money transfer apps.
How to Protect Yourself
First and foremost: NEVER SEND MONEY OR GIFTS TO A SWEETHEART YOU HAVE NOT MET IN PERSON.
If your new paramour is asking for money for any of the above reasons:
- Stop communicating with the person immediately.
- Talk to someone you trust, someone outside of the romance may have a clear perspective.
- Do some Googling – search the type of job the person claims to have along with the word “scammer.” People may have posted similar stories, i.e. “Oil rig scammer’ or “US Army scammer.”
- Also Google their picture. Do a reverse image search of the person’a profile picture, is it associated with another name or does the info you find not match with the story they gave you?
How to Report a Romance Scam
If you paid a romance scammer with a gift card, wire transfer, credit or debit card, or cryptocurrency, contact the company or your bank right away. Tell them you paid a scammer and ask them to refund your money.
If you think it’s a scam, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Notify the social networking site or app where you met the scammer, too.