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Fraud Education: Romance Scams

There were 64,003 romance scams reported in 2023, totaling losses of $1.14 billion. That's a median loss of $2,000 per person - the highest reported losses for any for of impostor scam. That suggests that when romance scammers have their hooks in a person, the financial consequences can be devastating.

The Federal Trade Commission provides advice about how to spot and stop a romance scam:

  • Never send money, crypto, gift cards, bank or wire transfers, or anything else to anyone you haven’t met in person. Scammers tactics have improved over time, but according to 2022 reports, 24% of them fall back on the lie that they need money because they (or a family member) are sick, hurt, or in jail. A good rule of thumb: sad stories are usually scam stories.
  • Don’t believe promises that an online friend can increase your nest egg. One variation of schemes that shows up often is a claim that the online friend has made a fortune in “investments” – cryptocurrency, for example – and wants to show you how to make money, too. The best advice: respond to any mention of money from a person you haven’t met in real life with a hard no.
  • Be suspicious of excuses about why an IRL meeting is impossible. Of course, caution is the watchword before setting up a meeting in real life. Also be aware of some of the typical lies scammers tell about why they can’t meet you – they’re deployed overseas, they’re on an oil rig, they went to a foreign country for work and now are being kept there against their will, etc. Excuses like that suggest you’re talking to a scammer.
  • Every picture tells a story. Do a reverse image search of the person’s profile picture or any photos they’ve sent you. If the images are associated with another name or if the details don’t match up, chances are you’re dealing with a scammer who, on top of everything else, has stolen someone’s identity. And do not send pictures of the personal nature. The FBI has warned that scammers may attempt to extort money by threatening to make pictures public or to send them to family members.
  • Tell a trusted friend that you’re talking to someone online. People with honest intentions have no problem with you telling someone close to you about your relationship. In contrast, romance scammers may try to isolate people by insisting on their silence. Keep a trusted friend or family member in the loop and pay attention if they express concerns about an online friend.
  • Who's at risk for romance scams? Pretty much anyone. Romance scammers are no respecters of age, occupation, or any other demographic variable. Anyone can be targeted if they’re on a dating app or if they just have a social media presence and respond to a message from someone they don’t know. Keep your guard up at all times.

If you have suspicions about a possible romance scam, report it to the FTC. Also notify the social networking site or app where you met the person. 

 

Information Provided By: Federal Trade Commission