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FTC warns of romance scams during Older Americans Month

The agency has offered tips for spotting one of these scams

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Photo (c) Paul Sutherland - Getty Images
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) never stops working to protect older consumers. But with this month being “Older Americans Month,” the agency is going the extra mile to raise awareness about scams targeting seniors. 

As part of its “Pass It On” fraud prevention campaign, the FTC has published an advisory with some of the red flags of the so-called “romance scam.” The federal agency warns that these types of scams can happen when someone makes a fake profile on a dating site, app, or on social media. 

The scammer then messages you “to get a relationship going, build your trust, and connect.” Once you’ve been charmed, the scammer will start requesting money. 

A request for money could sound something like this, according to the FTC: “Baby, I want to come see you but I’m short on funds. Can you send me $500 for a ticket?” Or, “I love you, honey. But we may not be able to talk anymore because my phone is about to get cut off. I need $300 to pay the bill…”

After you send the money, the scammer will likely try to get more money by telling more lies and then will cut you off completely. 

“Then the messages stop. You can’t reach them. They’ve taken off with a piece of your heart and a big chunk of your wallet,” the FTC said. 

Big losses 

Last year, consumers reported $304 million in romance scam-related losses. To avoid falling victim to one of these scams, the agency said consumers should keep these things in mind: 

  • You’ve never met the person asking for money. If someone you’ve never met in person asks you for money, that’s a scam. Never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person -- even if they send you money first.

  • They ask you to send gift cards or other currencies. Only scammers tell you to buy gift cards, wire money, or send cryptocurrency. The FTC warns that once you send that money, you won’t get it back.

If you suspect you’re dealing with a scammer, do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture. If it’s associated with another name or with details that don’t match up, it may well be a scam.

The FTC also recommends talking to someone you trust about your new love interest and paying attention if they’re concerned. 

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