Twenty-one thousand people in the United States were victims of romance scams in 2018, according to a new report from the Federal Trade Commission. The report, not so coincidentally published just before Valentine’s Day, says that those victims collectively lost $143 million to scammers. The median loss per scam victim was $2,600, which the FTC reports is seven times higher than losses in other types of fraud cases.
Romance scams were the type of consumer-fraud scam that was most frequently reported to the FTC in 2018. A typical incident involves a scammer posing as somebody else online by creating a bogus social media account or dating profile. Then the scammer — honestly, you know where this is going — lures in their victim with charm or humor or pictures or what have you. Once a relationship has been established, the scammer asks for money they claim to need for some supposedly dire situation, or to help pay for a flight to finally come see the victim: a flight that will never actually be taken for a meeting that will never actually happen.
The FTC reports notes that often scammers pose as real people or pretend to be stationed overseas in the military, both attempts to cover their tracks. Since 2015, reports of such scams have doubled. And losses involved in such scams have quadrupled. Often, money is sent via wire transfer or gift card. It seems like obvious advice, but if somebody seems to good to be true online and then starts asking you for money … uh, don’t send the money. Now somebody just needs to tell Dina Lohan. (Did you miss the news that Dina Lohan is being catfished. She’s being catfished.)