Earlier this month, the FTC revealed that consumers have lost over $200 million to “romance scams” in 2019, which is up nearly 40% since 2018, and is six times higher than it was five years ago. As the FTC detailed in its blog post, “[p]eople reported losing more money to romance scams in the past two years than to any other fraud reported to the FTC.” The increased proliferation of romance scams is unsurprising – social media and online dating apps gives scammers easy access to targets.
The FTC provided a few, commonsense ways to spot scammers: they want to move the relationship along quickly; they have an emergency such as hospital bills, travel expenses (perhaps for seeing their target), gambling debts, or the like; and they ask their targets to help pay for those expenses by wiring money or sending gift cards. The FTC also identified common fake professions, which include working on an oil rig, being in the military, or a being a doctor with an international organization.
Essentially, if somebody claiming to work for Doctors Without Borders asks for help paying off their gambling debt, he or she might be a scammer. Same goes for oil rig workers who need money to visit their sick grandmas in Des Moines. Love can be blind to a lot of things, but it shouldn’t be blind to risks associated with romance scams in the social-media-driven world of today.