In the wake of Netflix’s The Tinder Swindler, a new report from the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) states that romance scams hit record highs in 2021 clocking in with $547 million reported in losses. In the past five years, people have reported losing a whopping $1.3 billion to romance scammers.
Cryptocurrencies were the top payment methods scammers requested in 2021, tolling in at $139 million. The other types of payment requests were as follows: bank transfers or payment ($121 million), wire transfer ($93 million), and gift card or reload card ($36 million).
Dating apps are the most common way romance scammers target start their con, but more than a third of the victims said that their scam began on Facebook or Instagram. Unexpected messages on the social media platforms have skyrocketed this year. The scammers create fake online profiles with attractive photos taken from Google or oftentimes assume the identities of real individuals. If that’s not creepy enough, a few reports detailed that the victims are often studied in advance to make the con more believable, to make the connection seem more intense than it is with similarities and shared traumas.
A majority of victims all fell for the same types of stories – pleas for help while claiming financial or health crisis one after another. The stories included sick children or some temporary inability to get immediately needed money for a whole range of reasons. The other common twist of the con story of the romance scammer is the plea for help in getting their inheritance money or moving funds for an important business deal. The victim thinks they are just moving money, but in reality, they are laundering stolen funds. In other cases, the victims are even tricked into sending their own money. People have reported paying all sorts of ridiculously high fees to accept money amounts that never turn up. Other victims stated they deposited a check from their supposed significant other and then sent some of the money as requested, only to find out later on that the original check was fake, and they sent money that will never be reimbursed.
If you find yourself on the ever-growing internet dating scene and believe someone is trying to scam you, trust your gut. If someone you met online is asking you for money in gift cards, crypto, or through a wire transfer, the smart thing to do is immediately decline. Always pay attention to the red flags.
If you think you are being scammed, report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
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