Romance scams cost consumers over $200 million last year

Photo (c) AndreyPopov - Getty Images

Scams like these rose by almost 40 percent year-over-year

Although many scammers will be looking to trick consumers this Valentine’s Day, findings from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) show that romance scams aren’t exactly a new source of fraud. 

Statistics released by the agency earlier this week show that consumers lost a combined $201 million to romance scams over the course of 2019. That represented a nearly 40 percent rise in this kind of scam over the previous year.

In total, over 25,000 consumers filed reports with the FTC about romance scams. Officials note that reported losses for victims over the last two years top losses from any other type of scam.

“Reports of romance scams are growing, and costing people a lot of cash. According to new FTC data, the number of romance scams people report to the FTC has nearly tripled since 2015,” said Cristina Miranda, a member of the FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, in a blog post. 

“Even more, the total amount of money people reportedlosing in 2019 is six times higher than it was five years ago – from $33 million lost to romance scammers in 2015 to $201 million in 2019.” 

Spotting romance scams

Miranda says that there are some signs that consumers can be on the lookout for when it comes to detecting a romance scammer. In general, the scammer will always reach out to you first while using a stolen identity. They’ll say all the right things to flatter you and try to build a connection.

Oftentimes, the scammer will also claim to be living abroad as a service member, doctor, or some other kind of professional. Eventually, they’ll ask to make future plans with you that will involve you paying for travel or some other cost that comes up. 

The FTC says consumers should never send gifts or wire money to any romantic partner whom they haven’t actually met. If you suspect you’re being taken in by a romance scam, this is what the agency recommends you do:

  • Stop communicating with the person immediately;

  • Search online for the type of job the person says they have. See if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer;” and

  • 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’s a scam.

If you believe you have been the victim of a romance scam, the FTC says that you can report the incident on its website here.

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